Slept-on Skaters Worth a Second Look: The Big South
Over 100 teams across the state of Minnesota lace up their skates and go to war on the ice every winter, but nonetheless, some programs tend to have more of a draw than others. Many Class AA dynasties like Minnetonka…
Over 100 teams across the state of Minnesota lace up their skates and go to war on the ice every winter, but nonetheless, some programs tend to have more of a draw than others. Many Class AA dynasties like Minnetonka and Edina are household names now, practically synonymous with the word hockey, but what about the dozens of other teams that have to clash for the spotlight? In this new series here at Prep Hockey, I will be taking a hodgepodge approach to giving well deserved recognition to guys who have fallen under the radar for one reason or another. These lists will consist of top dogs, fringe starters, and skaters who are trying their absolute best to ball out in less-than-ideal circumstances. That being said, let’s dive right into it.
Kooper Johnson of Redwood Valley had a unique 2022-2023 campaign for a multitude of reasons. He started the year out as a reserve forward for his squad, a pretty typical role on varsity for an inexperienced underclassmen, and he even logged three points early on in the season. However, when push came to shove, Johnson was forced between the pipes to man the net for Redwood, and played well enough to potentially warrant a position change. Facing an 11-15 Windom Area team (For comparison, Redwood finished 0-22), Johnson was certainly outgunned, and faced a whopping 68 shots through three periods of play, well over one a minute. Even though Redwood ended up losing by seven goals, Johnson logged over 60 saves, performed solid damage control and kept his team fighting until the end. Skaters who are willing to drop everything to help the team are assets to have, and Johnson fits this role to a tee.
Worthington may be coming off a three win season, but this team has a lot to build off this coming winter, and the center piece will almost certainly be Easton Newman. The high-flying forward did his best to champion an offense that was sputtering at best, and the guy logged 23 points on 18 goals and five assists, finishing with an average of one point per game. On top of this, Newman showed he has star power when the chips are down. With Worthington on an 11-game losing streak and desperately needing a win, Newman caught fire, putting up nine points across two games, his back-to-back hat tricks lifting his squad to its only winning streak of the season. Worthington may have a lot of work to do this offseason, but with Newman due to be back for another year, this team can rest assured it at least has one piece of the puzzle.
Nate Rakness of Fairmont had his work cut out for him last year. The Cardinals defense struggled significantly, allowing nearly six goals per game, meaning Rakness and the attack were often playing on their heels. Even so, this guy was able to rack up some great production on the offensive end, finishing the season with 33 points on 20 goals and 13 assists. Rakness seems to have a good nose for knowing when to dish the puck and when to take control of the game himself, a versatile skillset that both keeps his teammates involved and allows him to flash on the offensive end. This aforementioned takeover served Fairmont nicely late in the season, as Rakness picked up a game winning goal versus Windom. All in all, this guy has the talent and clutch factor to be a big factor for Fairmont, and should be poised for a big season this upcoming winter.
Waseca has graduated two 40-point scorers, meaning its returning attack is set to be depleted and inexperienced. That being said, defense will be important early on in the year, so it will be up to Hunter Anderson and the rest of the Waseca defense to help this transition go as smooth as possible. As a sophomore in 2022-2023, Anderson was the defense’s leading scorer, putting up an impressive 18 points on seven goals and 11 assists, feeding the puck to superstar seniors and allowing them to go to work. However, when the postseason came around, Anderson took the spotlight, putting up two goals against Rochester Lourdes in a game his team would’ve won if not for a last second collapse. This guy is entering the prime of his career, and should only continue to improve as he progresses through his upcoming junior campaign for Waseca.
Adam Dahna of Windom may have had an up-and-down season, but make no mistake, this guy can absolutely flash the leather when the situation calls for it. His 6-13 record and .870 Save Percentage won’t pop out on paper, but the guy had plenty of excellent single game performances, exceeding expectations for a first-time varsity goalie. Dahna blanked Worthington and logged multiple games in which his save percentage was well worth of .900, including a 48-save performance against Luverne, a team that had one of Class A’s finest attacks. Dahna spent last season proving he has plenty of untapped potential in the net, and should be an asset for Windom come this winter.