Blue Devils hope to bring more competitive team to the ice
There is only one direction for George Behl and his Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Wadena-Deer Creek Blue Devils this season - up.
The Blue Devils lost 20 of their 22 games, scored just 24 goals and were shut out 13 times.
The lack of experience had just about everything to do with their problems. Behl's team was very green last year and they had to take their lumps.
The Blue Devils will not have a senior in the lineup this year but the competition will not be able to afford to take them lightly.
"We're young but we've got some experience," Behl said.
Leading the way for the Blue Devils will be four juniors - Halley Maas, Katelyn Peters, Samantha Killian and Hayli Toenyan. Maas is set to center the team's first line with Peters and Killian playing forward spots. Toenyan is a fourth-year wing.
Behl likes the potential of all four of his juniors but he is especially high on Maas.
"She's just a good all-around player," Behl said. "She's smart and she brings speed and energy to the ice."
The Blue Devils will also have four sophomores in the lineup. Defenseman Sarah Najjar is out for her third year of hockey and Behl has seen her develop into a solid talent.
Emery Dumpprope has returned to the ice after being away from the sport for a few years. Behl wants to use her at a forward spot.
Kylee Helling is a third-year forward who can shoot.
"We're looking for her to control the puck a little more," Behl said. "We need to see more points out of her."
Sarah Holm steps into the season as the team's top goalie. Holm played summer hockey and Behl likes her skills.
"She's got good reflexes and she sees the puck well," Behl said. "She can control the game."
Most of Behl's roster will come out of the freshman class. Katelyn Barthel, Ashley Helseth, Carli Nundahl and Brooke Sepin are all slated to play as forward spots.
Barthel led the team in scoring last year and the Blue Devils will be relying on her to help boost their offensive output.
"She can stick handle, she's a good shot and she's a real hard worker," Behl said.
Helseth is back for her second season after seeing plenty of ice time as an eighth-grader.
The other five freshmen are being groomed to play defense. Kylee Damm is back for her third season with the Blue Devils. Damm will join Najjar in playing a key defensive role for the club. Ana Sturdavent could be looking at a lot more ice time if she improves her aggressiveness. Morgan Zeise is a smooth skater who stepped in and exceeded Behl's expectations last year. Sara Casperson has to show more consistency in her play on defense. Zara Einerwold brings speed to the ice and Behl sees her helping the team at the blue line.
Behl will also reach into the eighth-grade ranks. Goalie Angela Hanson went to state twice with her U-12 team and will be seeing some varsity action this year. Behl likes her athletic abilities.
Kathryn Benney and Logan Theiler will be taking the ice as forwards.
Behl does not see a clear-cut favorite in the Mid-State Conference this year.
"I'm excited," Behl said. "I think we're further ahead than we were at this same time last year. We should be competitive with everyone we play this year."