Can the Shakopee boys hockey team make a bigger impact this season and contend in Section 2AA?
That’s the hope for Sabers coach Calvin Simon, whose top three scorers are back from last year’s squad that finished 12-13-1 overall (7-10-1 in the South Suburban Conference).
Shakopee lost 3-1 to Minnetonka in the section quarterfinals last year. The program is 0-14 in the playoffs since becoming a Class 2A program at the start of the 2007-08 school year, and has had just one winning season in the last 16 years.
So is a breakthrough season coming? Simon thinks so.
“We expect to compete in every game and win the majority of them,” Simon said. “We’ve added some tough opponents this season and look forward to proving we can play with anyone. We believe this is the year we win section games and compete for a section championship. That’s our top priority this season — win section games.”
In 2021, Shakopee finished the regular season with a 9-6-3 record, but the team had to pull out of the Section 2AA tourney due to COVID-19 complications.
Senior Jackson Vogel was part of that squad. He led the team in points that season with 24 (11 goals, 13 assists) and did the same last winter with 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists).
Sophomore Cooper Simpson and ninth grader Carson Steinhoff made an immediate impact last season in their first varsity seasons. Simpson led the team in goals scored with 24, adding 15 assists.
Steinhoff, a defenseman, finished with five goals and 21 assists.
Sophomore Aleksi Huson had a strong first season in goal for Shakopee. He finished last year two shutouts, a .903 save percentage and a 3.04 goals-against average.
Senior captains Sam Zovic, Zane Orchard and Linus Toward are also back, along with seniors Ben Turcotte and Lucas Larson.
“These five are our leaders both on the ice and in the locker room,” Simon said. “They are the glue that keeps our team together, especially during the tough times. We have six seniors this season and this is their team. Our success will be largely dependent on their leadership and we are excited about that.”
Toward finished with five goals and eight assists last year, while Larson had three goals and seven assists. Zovic chipped in two goals and six assists.
Simon is not afraid to play young talent. Two eighth graders and a ninth grader got significant varsity minutes last year. Ninth grader Cole Bumgarner also played on defense with Steinhoff.
“We are young, but we have a lot of varsity experience,” Simon said. “Our goaltending is as good as it has been since we last won a section championship (Class A, 2005). Vogel and Simpson are dynamic together. When they are clicking, they can out-score anyone.
“But our biggest strength is the selfless leadership of our seniors,” he added. “They don’t have a selfish bone in their body. It’s all about the team with those guys. They are our secret to success this season.”
Section 2AA is strong. Prior Lake is the defending champion. Minnetonka is the lone team ranked in the Class AA preseason top 10 at No. 7.
Eden Prairie, Holy Family, Chaska, Chanhassen and Bloomington Jefferson are also in the field.
Lakeville South is the team to beat in the conference. The Cougars, at No. 3, are the only team in the SSC ranked in the preseason poll.
The Sabers have 16 conference victories over the last two years. That’s 10 more than program had in the previous five seasons combined (6-91-4).
Shakopee will open the SSC season Dec. 6 at home versus Lakeville North.