The New Prague boys’ hockey program could easily have been in rebuild mode after last season, its initial trip to the Class 1A tournament. Instead, it reloaded.
“We lost 11 seniors,” New Prague coach Chris Lonke said. “We have 12 seniors this year, 10 of which are actively playing in the playoffs.”
The Trojans enter Wednesday’s quarterfinal matchup with an overall record of 20-8-0. They face defending state champion and No. 3-seeded East Grand Forks at 1 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“Our team lives by the motto: ‘We not me,’ ” Lonke said. “They are playing hockey in pursuit of their individual and team ‘Hockey Ikigai.’ That is a Japanese word that means finding your purpose. Why do you get up in the morning? We asked them to answer the question, why they get up in the morning to play hockey? It was an awesome team-builder.”
New Prague’s success starts in goal. Senior netminder Conner Wagner has won 43 games over the past two seasons. The Trojans have only allowed three or more goals in eight games on the year.
“Conner is a great competitor,” Lonke said.
Wagner is one of five senior captains. The others are forwards Ryan O’Rourke and Ben Witt and defensemen Casey Busch and Jake Klein. Witt is the team’s second-leading scorer behind junior Alex Gregor.
“I think last year’s experience is going to help our returning key guys be even better,” Lonke said. “They also can be answering questions from the new guys to get them settled in quicker.”
The Trojans took third place in the state tournament a year ago, finishing with an overall record of 23-5-3.
She is only a sophomore, but Maizie Deihl is quickly climbing the ranks in New Prague girls’ basketball lore.
The 5-7 guard scored 14 points in a 62-30 victory over Holy Family in a Wright County Conference matchup. The performance included the 1,000th point of her career.
Deihl is averaging nearly 18 points per game for the Trojans, who are the No. 3 ranked team in Class 3A.
• Apple Valley junior Mark Hall, wrestling at 170 pounds, won his fifth consecutive Class 3A championship in the individual tournament. He pinned all four of his opponents in the state tournament. Senior Bobby Steveson (195) and freshman brother Gable Steveson (220) also were crowned champions. The trio helped the Eagles to their 10th consecutive team title.
• Also in the Class 3A individual tournament, Rosemount junior Adam Hedin completed a perfect season. He beat St. Cloud Tech’s Austin Brenner 4-1 in the finals at 132 pounds, finishing the year at 45-0.