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Another season in the books
Roy Koenig, Sports Analyst
Roy Koenig, sports wrap, steele county times

Now that the dust has settled, or more aptly the snow has drifted, on the winter sports season at Owatonna High School, it is a good time to look back from the perspective of Owatonna Live. I’m blessed to work with a great group of announcers and dedicated behind-the-scenes people.

Huskies’ boys’ basketball contended for a Big Nine title despite a big turnover of personnel from last season’s state tournament team. The girls’ built a foundation for the future.

The wrestlers gave plenty of underclassmen experience while also delivering thrills. The team pulled off a home win over eventual section champ Rochester Mayo, and Kaden Keller made the most of his varsity debut by earning an electrifying pin over a Chatfield wrestler.

OHS girls’ hockey put up goals at a staggering pace while marching their way to their third Big Nine title in the last four seasons. Scoring milestones were achieved on a regular basis. Meanwhile, the boys were collecting souvenir pucks nearly nightly as “first varsity goal” became part of the play-by-play vernacular.

Hoops Time

Jason Iacovino handles the basketball duties on Owatonna Live and felt the boys overachieved. “Collin Vick was a non-starting role player his junior year and this season he’s a candidate for Big Nine Player of the Year. I think it’s nothing short of astonishing what they were able to accomplish, all the while knowing Lakeville North brought everyone back and would be tough.”

I got the chance to sit in for several significant games. I was there for the first boys’ home game of this season, the last girls’ game in the current gym, and the final boys’ regular-season game which just happened to include Blake Burmeister setting the program scoring record with 44 points while draining a school-record 11 three-pointers.

Iacovino says the girls have set the stage for the future. “You saw that in growing pains with the likes of Ava Olson, Abby Shornock, and Lexi Klecker. Morgan Fisher is certainly going to be a factor for the next two years. She took the biggest step forward. Maryn Pool and Carsyn Brady will be good guards.”

He added, “I love covering basketball for Owatonna Live. It runs very smooth for the most part and it’s great to talk less with the video telling the story.”

Take it to the ice

Tom Breuer’s expertise in commenting on soccer might only be surpassed by his knowledge of hockey. It was a great pleasure to work alongside him and continue to learn and understand more about the great game of hockey. Maybe you can teach an old dog – such as myself – new tricks after all.

At nearly every girls’ game, the Owatonna Live stream came back from the post-game commercial break with Sarah Snitker at the center of the screen as she skated over to the glass to thank her grandpa George Dow for attending. “He’s just been such a huge part of my life. We moved here when I was young to be closer to them,” she said. “He never misses a home game.”

The turning point in the girls’ season was rallying from a three-goal, third-period deficit against Northfield. A game that ended with Molly Achterkirch hollering, “Ezra! Ezra! Ezra! Slot! Slot! Slot!” as she was lining up the game-winner.

We witnessed a boys’ hockey team that graduated 19 seniors start the season with a thrilling overtime win over Mankato East. Andrew Mitchell notched the second overtime game-clinching goal of his career. OHS was locked in tight games all season and the players were dialed in on blocking any shot they could. To the point that opposing coaches asked Dave Fromm how he got the guys to commit to it.

Hats off to the tech people with Scott Limberg’s Owatonna Live. Zach Dantzman, Michelle Dettmer, Bridget Volsen and Matt Fisher are the regular basketball crew. Emily Cochran, Katy Nelson, Brenda Shockey and Bob Beier cover hockey.

OHS Grads at NCAA Tourney

A pair of OHS grads wrestled in the NCAA tournament over the weekend. Three-time state champ Peyton Robb finished sixth. The Nebraska junior was the No. 3 seed and lost a tight 5-3 decision to the second seed in the semifinals. After a loss in the consolation round, Robb medically forfeited the fifth-place match. The nutrition science major finished the season 28-4. It was his third appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Cade King, a state prep champ and three-time finalist, went 0-2 wrestling for South Dakota State University at the same tournament. The senior business economics major was 19-11 on the season, qualifying for the tournament for the first time.

State tournament

Owatonna’s under-15 girls’ hockey team came home from the state tournament with the consolation championship trophy, to line up next to their district and region hardware. It was their third straight trip to state, but the team’s first time picking up victories.

Owatonna had to deal with adversity. What was already a limited roster, shrank due to illness. They skated just ten players in their opening 4-2 loss to Moorhead at Doug Woog Arena in South St. Paul. The team got a player back for a 5-2 consolation win over Eagan, but then lost another player for the consolation final, in a 1-0 barnburner over Cannon River.

Coach Ryan Mitchell says they were missing a couple of their veteran defensemen. “We had to kind of piece things together. The girls did great and held up and came home with some hardware. Skating with ten players, in general, is tough.”

While they fell short of making it to the title game, he says it was a great way to end the season. “With the hand we were dealt, it wasn’t our weekend to do that. But to come home on Sunday with a trophy… It was a great cherry on top for the girls after a great season.”

The team only became a reality last fall when three players moved up from under-12’s and a couple of players that could have played high school hockey stayed at the under-15 level. “We pieced a team together and didn’t know what we had right away. We just kept rattling off wins, building confidence, and getting better. It was fun,” said Mitchell.

Youth hockey

OHS coach Tony Cloud sees a strong feeder program in place in Owatonna, and told the Owatonna Live Coaches Show that it takes action to build a strong roster. “Outreach to players at the youth hockey level and trying to grow our youth numbers is crucial if we want to be self-sustainable. For us, it’s really important to increase the number of athletes at the younger ages and grow the interest in girls’ hockey.”

He says the team’s success at the high school level fires up future Huskies. “Being able to showcase the talent of what our team has been able to do over the last few years has been a huge influence on girls wanting to come be a part of the program.”

Hockey awards

Owatonna girls’ hockey celebrated their season at their awards’ banquet. Big Nine Scholar Athlete recognition went to seniors C.J. Frear-Boerner, Mady Simon, Abby Vetsch, Snitker, and Ezra Oien. Team MVP honors were shared by Oien and Vetsch. Oien, who ends her career as No. 3 in all-time points in OHS girls’ hockey history, was named Offensive Player of the Year.

Vetsch earned Defensive Player of the Year and the Hobey Baker Character Award. Other varsity awards included Snitker (Husky Award), and sophomores Alia Kubicek (Most Improved), and Leah Spencer (Rookie of the Year). Senior Macy Stanton was the only six-year letter-winner on the roster.

All-Big Nine Conference went to Oien, Vetsch, Snitker, senior Ava Stanchina, and juniors Samantha Bogen, Izzy Radel and Molly Achterkirch. Junior Mikayla Wilker and freshman Kendra Bogen were honorable mentions. Oien, Vetsch, and Snitker handed off the captaincy to Achterkirch, Bogen, and Radel.

OHS went 19-7, had an 11-game winning streak, and was the third-highest-scoring team in the state.

The junior varsity delivered a 17-6-1 season. JV awards went to Spencer (MVP and Most Improved), junior Halle Oldefendt (Husky Award), freshmen Genevieve Froman (Offensive Player of the Year) and Paige Thompson (Defensive Player of the Year).

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