As everybody knows by now, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a huge check into the boys’ hockey season last winter. Games didn’t start until mid-January and new safety protocols, including having to wear facemasks under their face shields, all became part of the game.

And though it doesn’t appear that the virus and its variants are going away anytime soon, there seems to be less anxiety and players able to literally breathe more freely about the impending puck season.

Saint Thomas Academy coach Trent Eigner said his squad has followed pandemic protocols when put into place, but there isn’t that lingering uncertainty of a winter ago. “(COVID) isn’t a point of issue with our team,” Eigner said. “We don’t talk about it a lot.”

SPA boys hockey
Junior forward George Peltier (7) could not quite connect on this shot as Saint Paul Academy fell 2-0 at home on November 30 against Simley. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Saint Paul Academy coach Bill McClellan said last season was “much worse” when he was an assistant at Holy Angels and they had to deal with mask mandates and play in empty arenas. “It’s great that this year there are fans in the stands,” McClellan said. “I know that we still have COVID on the rise, but I think the whole situation is better.”

Two Rivers coach George Awada said his squad had no COVID cases to report. “It’s been good so far,” he said. “We did have a few cases last year.”

Minnehaha Academy coach Jeff DeGree was pleased to disclose that his team had only sustained one positive COVID test so far, and that this player had already finished quarantine and is now healthy again.

Here’s a look at the local boys’ hockey teams as the 2021-22 season takes the ice:

Cretin-Derham Hall

League: Suburban East
Last year’s record: 18-2
Coach: Matt Funk

Key players: senior goalie Marko Belak, senior wing Drew Fisher, junior wing Jake Fisher, senior center Jake Sondreal, senior defender Zach Sondreal, and junior defenders Simon Houge and Colton Jamieson.

Outlook: The Raiders were rated No. 1 in Class AA in one early season poll and have a lot of experience with 14 seniors. They face a tough schedule, but hope to draw motivation from last year when they were upset by Benilde-Saint Margaret’s in the section semifinals. “We’re an old team, with a lot of guys who’ve played a lot of games together,” Funk said. “By Christmas, we’ll be battle-tested well.”


League: Independent
Last year’s record: 4-10
Coach: Brandon Ferraro

Key players: junior goalie Ben Olson, senior defender Max Cornell, sophomore forward Peter Douma, sophomore defender Ben Waud, and senior forwards Grant Howatt, Jacob Bell and Javier Hamlin.

Outlook: Ferraro said his goal is for his club to play .700 hockey. He likes his team in the nets, adding that his defenders are mobile and that he has a fast first line. “We want to stay disciplined and play for each other,” he said. “So far, we’re doing pretty well.”

Minnehaha Academy

League: Independent Metro Athletic
Last year’s record: 1-17-1
Coach: Jeff DeGree

Key players: senior goalie Patrick Anderson, senior forward Declan Huddleston, senior defender Dylan Kist and senior forward Garrett Eide.

Outlook: New coach DeGree, previously a Minneapolis Youth Association coach, acknowledged that numbers are down for the Redhawks, but said he’s excited to build the program. “We just want to compete, to play hard every game,” he said. “We have a lot of seniors in our group.”

Saint Paul Academy

League: Independent Metro Athletic
Last year’s record: 3-13
Coach: Bill McClellan

Key players: junior forwards George Peltier and Alex Armada, senior defender Judah Thomas and junior defender Nelson Wodarz.

Outlook: The Spartans will have seven seniors and are sophomore-heavy below that. “I’m not sure about team strengths at this point,” McClellan said. “One of our challenges is that we’re so young, but our goal is to get better every day.”

Saint Thomas Academy

League: Metro East
Last year’s record: 13-5-3
Coach: Trent Eigner

Key players: senior centers Max Nagel and Tyler Grahme, junior wing Tommy Cronin, and senior defenders Austin Williams and Tommy Stattine.

Outlook: The Cadets had offensive threats last year, but this season’s big plus is the backline. “We’re a little more experienced (on D) this year,” Eigner said, “but it’s not like we’re going to be starved for scoring. We should be able to compete. Our goal is to make it back to the state tournament. We’ll have six or seven seniors who’ll be contributors.”

Two Rivers

League: Metro East
Last year’s record: 4-16
Coach: George Awada

Key players: senior forward Baz Schuele, sophomore forwards Will Auran and Nate Rohrer, and sophomore goalie Brady Altier.

Outlook: The Warriors have been down in recent years, but coach Awada thinks his program is finally gaining some depth from the current sophomore class. “We have a good class there,” he said. “We’ve been on an upward trend the last couple of years. We want our players to gain some confidence. We just want to win a few more games.”

— Bill Wagner


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