With the 2020-21 season still months out, it’s time to take a look at teams from all over the State of Hockey and examine what happened this past season and what’s ahead. The next team we’re breaking down is Mankato…
With the 2020-21 season still months out, it’s time to take a look at teams from all over the State of Hockey and examine what happened this past season and what’s ahead. The next team we’re breaking down is Mankato East/Loyola.
How last season went
Things did not look promising for the Cougars heading into the postseason. They were outscored during the season. It started with a four-game winless streak to open the season. But somehow, things turned toward Mankato East/Loyola.
The Cougars did this by following that losing streak up with a five-game win streak. Along the way, Mankato East/Loyola picked up wins against rival Mankato West and Shakopee.
Expectations were minimal heading into the Section 1A tournament for the Cougars as they earned the No. 4 seed. It started with a 4-2 win against Minnesota River in the quarterfinals. Then, chaos ensued. Mankato East/Loyola stunned the hockey world with a 5-3 win against top-seeded Dodge County in the semifinals.
With one win separating the Cougars from a state tournament appearance, they made that dream a reality with a 3-1 win against Mankato West as Mankato East/Loyola made its second consecutive state tournament appearance in three years.
Come state tournament time, the Cougars were underdogs once again. But this Class 1A darling did not replicate their section success. Following a loss to St. Cloud Cathedral in the quarterfinals, Mankato East/Loyola lasted just one game in the consolation round following a loss to Monticello.
Who’s back and who’s gone
If you’re going to know about one Cougar heading into next season, it should be Layten Liffrig. He is set to return following a team-best 74-point season (32 goals, 42 assists). He dazzled those across the state with his speed. Also back are Brett Borchardt (8G, 26A), Jake Schreiber (8G, 22A) and Jake Kazenbach (11G, 17A).
The biggest loss due to graduation appears to be Matthew Salzle, who wrapped up his final season of high school hockey with a 62-point season (32G, 30A).
In net, things are looking up for Mankato East/Loyola. Caelin Bureske is set to return in net following a season where he was the primary netminder while posting a .875 save percentage.
What to expect next season
It seems almost certain that the Cougars overachieved during the 2019-20 season. With all of the talent coming back, Mankato East/Loyola should certainly be looked at as a favorite in Section 1A. It’s possible that with the state tournament appearance in 2020 that this team could be a factor in the 2021 state tournament.