Dakota United has won adapted floor hockey state championships in 2006 and 2009 in the CI division. The PI team won three consecutive state titles from 2004 to 2006.
The Hawks, with an 8-2 record through Monday, are looking to capture more trophies this March.
Veterans leading CI
Two seniors solidify the core of the Hawks, who took third place at state last year in the cognitively impaired (CI) division. Defenseman Joe Sandey is a rock for Dakota United on the back end.
“He’s been an absolute blessing,” said CI head coach Brett Kasidowski, who also led the Hawks to an adapted soccer state title this fall. “He’s our shutdown defensive player. He attacks everything that comes his way. He sets up the offense when he brings it down into the corner.”
Ricky Arends is a dynamic electric scorer who has been playing on the varsity program since he was in seventh grade. Arends, a center, is the glue that keeps everyone together and keeps all the players involved.
“He’s the epitome of a Dakota Hawk,” Kasidowski said. “He’s the heart and soul of the program.”
In contrast to their veteran leaders, the Hawks have a sophomore goalie, Carl Fagre, who is a definite team MVP candidate this year. Fagre is one of the best stick-handlers and shooters on the team, but when a previous Hawks goalie graduated a couple of years ago, he wanted to give it a shot.
“He’s phenomenal,” Kasidowski said. “His hand-eye coordination is out of this world. He stops everything.”
New Prague/TCU/Le Sueur-Henderson, likely the No. 1 seed, and Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville are two conference teams that are among the favorites at state.
“I would say one of these three teams will win state,” Kasidowski said. “We’re very veteran teams and we have some dynamite players.”
The Hawks defeated Lakeville the first time around with a final score of 4-3 at home. The next week, Lakeville exacted revenge. Dakota United also fell to New Prague/TCU/Le Sueur-Henderson by just one goal, but the Hawks were without their ace defenseman Sandey.
The team has been working on improving communication and in-game adjustments to help them down the stretch.
“We’re homing to establish everything here and get it all set and hopefully they can ride off into the sunset with a championship at the end of the season,” Kasidowski said.
Dakota United’s team in the physically impaired (PI) division has its fair share of talent and success, led by ninth-grader Grayson Nicolay.
“He’s an outstanding athlete and great kid,” said Kasidowski, who also coaches most of these athletes during the adapted soccer and softball seasons. “He’s breaking all the records on all the teams he plays for at Dakota United.”
Jaayson Meyer, a junior, is also helping fuel the offense up front.
“They’re lighting it up,” Meyer said.
The Hawks’ PI team has only suffered one loss this season, to Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka. Both teams also met in last year’s state finals, where Robbinsdale captured the title.
If they meet again this month, it could be for the state title.
Both Hawks teams will first have to win their play-in playoff games to get to the state tournament, which will be held March 15-16 at Bloomington Jefferson High School.