The Burnsville boys hockey team looks to be in a rebuilding season.
The Blaze lost five of their top six scorers from last year’s squad that finished 9-11 overall (8-10 in the South Suburban Conference).
Just two seasons ago, Burnsville was in the Section 3AA title game, falling 2-0 to St. Thomas Academy. It was the Blaze’s eighth section title appearance since 2007. Burnsville lost to Rosemount in the section semifinals last year.
The Blaze won the Section 5AA crown in 2007 over Holy Angels, and followed by making five finals appearances in Section 2AA between 2008 and 2015, but lost all five to Edina.
Burnsville’s last state berth came in 2016 when they beat St. Thomas Academy 7-1 for the Section 3AA crown.
Burnsville opened this season Nov. 30 with a 2-2 tie at home to St. Cloud.
Over the years, the Blaze have usually played a powerhouse schedule, but that’s not the case this winter outside of the SSC. Minneapolis, Holy Angels and Park, along with St. Cloud, are the team’s non-conference opponents.
Traditionally, Burnsville has lined up non-league opponents like Hill-Murray, Edina, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, ranked No. 4, 7 and 8, respectively, in the first Class 2A poll Nov. 24.
Perhaps, part of the reason there are no traditional powers on the schedule this season is because the Blaze have only 27 players combined on their varsity and junior varsity. The depth is just not there anymore.
Last year, Burnsville played only an SSC schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The schedule was even a little light in the 2019-20 season when the team won 17 games with the toughest non-league opponent being Blake.
Senior forwards Thomas Dundon and Colton Gregersen are back to lead the Blaze’s offense this winter. Senior Pierce Konrath returns in goal. He made his varsity debut as a ninth-grader.
Konrath had a 3.29 goals-against average and an 0.888 save percentage last season. Dundon was third on the team in scoring with 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists). Gregersen finished with three goals and seven assists.
Burnsville Coach Steve Beaulieu hopes the younger talent can step up so the Blaze can be competitive in the SSC and in Section 3AA.
“(Our goal) is to develop a young team to be able to compete in a tough SSC,” he said. “We have a veteran goaltender, size and physicality.”
Burnsville’s first SSC game is at home Dec. 7 against the only ranked team in the SSC. That would be No. 6 Lakeville South, last year’s Class 2A state runner-up.
The Blaze are at Shakopee Dec. 11 for their first conference road game.
Second-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall was moved into Section 3AA this season when the Minnesota State High School reclassified sections for all sports last spring. The Raiders open the season ranked No. 2 in the state behind No. 1 Maple Grove.
Meanwhile, St. Thomas Academy has won the last five Section 3AA crowns.
Eastivew, Rosemount, Eagan Apple Valley and Park are also in the field.
Section 3AA quarterfinal play starts Feb. 22 with the semifinals set for Feb. 25. The higher seed is at home in the first two rounds. The title game is March 3 at Braemar Ice Arena in Edina.