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Mike Behl is one of the skaters returning to the ice this season for the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines.

Wolverines to lean heavily on underclassmen

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Wadena-Deer Creek Head Coach Chris Holman wants to build his Wolverines hockey team from "the net out" this season.

"You can do a lot with a quality defensive group because it initiates the rush," Holman said as he prepared to lead his third WDC team into the 2013-2014 season.

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After losing three of their top scorers, Mitchell Swanson, Christian Berg and Bridger Pettit, to graduation last spring the Wolverines find themselves piecing together a new team that is expected to include up to eight new sophomores.

The Wolverines showed remarkable improvement last year posting a 15-12 record after winning just one game the year before. Swanson and Pettit were two major pieces as the Wolverines won the majority of their games with their scoring punch.The club racked up 134 goals over their 27-game season.

Holman's lone senior is goalie Wesley Janson. He is counting on the team captain will be counted on for both leadership and net skills.

"Wes has been on the varsity for four years and he's seen a lot of shots over that amount of time," Holman said. "We are really looking for some leadership from him."

Janson cut his goals against average by 2.9 a game last season and a key to WDC's season could be cutting that number again according to Holman.

"If he can shave another 2.9 we can have a shot," Holman said.

The Wolverines also have juniors Tyler Winkels, Gunner Perlinger and Andrew Johnson their roster.

Winkels was used as a utility player last year and grew into one of Holman's best forwards.

"He decided he was going to play hockey at his best level." Holman said.

Perlinger has hockey talent that Holman does not feel the Wolverines have come close to tapping. The Eagle Bend athlete skated most of last season with a pelvis injury which he picked up on the first day of practice. Holman wants to play Perlinger at a forward spot.

Johnson, who is joining the club from Staples, was out for hockey at one time but has missed a couple of seasons.

Heading the sophomore group are Dylan Phillips and Mike Behl.

Phillips joined the varsity two years ago and scored four goals in his first game. Phillips followed up last season by giving the Wolverines a strong presence on the offensive end of ice last year. He goes into the 2013-2014 season as a team captain.

"He's our fastest skater and he's a very good athlete," Holman said.

Behl came up the varsity as a freshman and Holman sees him filling a center role.

"Mike does a good job of taking care of business," Holman said. "He does a great job of coming back and playing defense as well."

Some of the new sophomores on the team include Drew Killian, Austin Sutherland, Thomas Brekke, Mitchell Janson, Elijah Schmidt, Jarrett Pettit, Reid Miller and Jake Johnson.

"We've got a great sophomore class and if we can keep it together and they improve maybe a couple of years down the road we might have a shot," Holman said.

The Wolverines are also bringing freshman Josh Daigneault up from the Bantams. Holman feels Daigneault has learned all the hockey he can on the Bantam level and wants to see what he can do for the Wolverines on defense.

"Everyone says he's an athlete and I like the fact that he wants to play defense," Holman said.

The Wolverines are also expected to give senior Will Eliason a shot at playing time. Eliason has been a cross country and track and field standout for the Wolverines and was the hockey team's manager last year.

The Wolverines are also adding a foreign exchange player from Finland, Elias Lehti, to the club.

The Wolverines open the season Friday, Nov. 22 at Ely. Their first home match is Nov. 26 with Bagley.

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