Slept-On Skaters Worth a Second Look: The Iron Range
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.
Jake Stadler of North Shore is a skater who I think could breakout in 2023-2024 if the stars align. Despite the Storm finishing dead-last in the Iron Range, Stadler shined, leading his team with 32 points on 17 goals and 15 assists. His star power was on full display in performances against the Ashland Oredockers and Moose Lake Area, games in which he scored four and five goals, respectively. A first team All-Conference selection in the Iron Range, Stadler is among the top returners across the conference, and the Storm are returning its top eight scorers from last year’s squad. Watch out for Stadler and North Shore this winter, as they are set to make leaps and bounds considering the amount of experience coming back.
Cooper Crandall of International Falls will have a big set of shoes to fill. One of the only big-time contributors that is returning to the roster, Crandall is set to lead a Broncos team that graduated 11 seniors this last fall, a group that included eight of their top 10 scorers and the starting goalie. With a gutted roster and little experience to show among returners, Crandall’s role is set to expand, a task he seems poised to grab by the horns. As a sophomore last season, Crandall put up 26 points on 12 goals and 14 assists, making him one of International Falls’ premier scoring options despite the team being stacked with seniors. He has a stout and strong build at 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, and he uses his strength to bully his way past the blue line and into the net. A star both on the gridiron and the ice, Crandall’s athleticism is set to take him far, and it will sure come in handy as he looks to pilot this Broncos team to a successful season this coming winter.
Derek Gibeau of Greenway is a guy I have written about a few times, and for good reason. Arguably one of the most underrated goalies in the state, Gibeau’s stats are bogged down by a Greenway attack that just could not seem to score consistently, as its top guy could only muster up 16 points. Greenway averaged under two goals per game, yet Gibeau still put up respectable numbers across the board that included a 6-11 record, .884 save percentage and 541 saves, all great numbers considering how under duress this guy was across 17 games. He’s a wiry guy, listed at 5-foot-10 and a hair under 140 pounds, but he’s quick and consistent between the pipes, and keeps Greenway in more games than this team honestly should be in considering its sputtering offense. If Gibeau can get a little more help on both ends of the ice, I think the state will finally be put on notice as to how good of a goalie this guy truly is.
Kasey Lamppa of Rock Ridge might not get talked about as much on this site thanks to some other stars on his team, but this guy is an absolute threat on the offensive end who could very well lead the Wolverines in points this upcoming season. Last season amidst a stacked, senior-led forward room, Lamppa held his own, posting some impressive numbers in the process that included 31 points on 14 goals and 17 assists, numbers good for third in scoring on his team. At 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, Lamppa has good size to go with his shot, and his on-ice vision is among the best in the Iron Range. An All-Conference honorable mention his junior season, Lamppa will be the top offensive weapon among Rock Ridge’s returning starters, meaning he should have plenty of chances to point points on the board come winter.