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Grand Forks Herald 10 high school hockey teams to watch in 2022-23

The Herald selected five boys and five girls teams to watch for the season.

Warroad vs Proctor-Hermantown_0820.jpg
Warroad celebrates their win over against Proctor/Hermantown in the State Class A Tournament Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live
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GRAND FORKS — The Herald has selected five boys and five girls high school hockey teams to watch in the 2022-23 season.

GIRLS TEAMS TO WATCH

Crookston: Crookston finished 15-9-2 last year before losing to Warroad in the section title game.

Reese Swanson, who Crookston has moved to defense this year, returns as the Pirates’ leading scorer (20 goals and 17 assists).

“She’s really been that offensive defenseman,” Crookston coach Emily Meyer said. “She’s on the blue line but she can jump in to the high slot. She’s a very good skater.”

A transfer from Grand Forks, goalie Kambelle Freije has led the Pirates in net early this season. Speedy freshman Taylor Field (three goals in first five games) is also new to the program under a new co-op with East Grand Forks Sacred Heart.

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In addition to Swanson, Brekken Tull has five goals and 10 points in five games.

“These kids are really starting to work together,” Meyer said. “It’s better each game. Everyone has one common goal, and they play in all areas very well.”

Grand Forks: The KnightRiders, who are coming off an eighth-place finish in the North Dakota standings last year, expect to have a deeper group this season.

Grand Forks only graduated one of its top 11 scorers from last season, although the KnightRiders will miss the scoring of Emily Becker (14 goals, 10 assists).

Grand Forks returns all-state selection and leading scorer Averi Greenwood at forward, as well as veteran and all-region goalie Kaylee Baker.

The KnightRiders’ youth has already made an impact. In the season-opening win over Devils Lake, three Grand Forks players had multi-point games.

In addition to Greenwood’s goal and assist, freshman Bre Harildstad (two goals, assist) and sophomore Brooklyn Soderberg (two assists) also had big nights.

Roseau: The Rams went 14-10-2 last season, losing to Moorhead in the section semifinals.

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The Rams lost about 70 percent of their scoring, notably Memphis Mertens, now a freshman at Franklin Pierce University, who had 26 goals a year ago.

Roseau will lean on sophomore Payton Remick, who had 10 goals and 14 assists as a freshman.

“I’m seeing a lot of really good things,” Roseau coach Amanda Giles said. “We’re a really young team. We have no seniors, three juniors and 12 or 13 eighth-graders (between varsity and junior varsity). To already have some success this year, I’m a little surprised but the kids are working hard.”

Remick has started this season with eight goals in five games.

“She’s stepped up in a major way,” Giles said. “She’s a big influence in the locker room. She’s a natural puck carrier and can see plays extremely well.”

The Rams have a four-year veteran in net in Jada Pelowski. Roseau will also sprinkle in up-and-coming eighth-grader Madalyn Lisell.

Roseau’s blue line is paced by Summer Byfuglien, while Remick is complemented by Lily Erickson and Jasmine Hovda up front.

Thief River Falls: The Prowlers won six games last year and were eliminated from the section playoffs in the semifinals by eventual state champion Warroad.

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The Prowlers are led by Gretchen Cota, who has five goals and four assists in the first five games of the year.

“She’s a hard-worker,” Thief River Falls coach Brett Johnson said. “She works hard on both ends of the ice. She’s strong and determined. I just know every shift she’s out there, she’ll give me everything she’s got.”

In addition to Cota, the Prowlers have been led by seven points each from Kali Knutson and eighth-grader Lila Dalager. Quinn Kenfield is another strong defensive defenseman.

“We’re young,” Johnson said. “We have a large group of seniors (seven) and then eighth-graders (four). My seniors have been so good about helping and teaching them and learning to understand our system, so we’re going through a bit of a growing pain. (The eighth-graders) have a lot of upside and skill.”

The Prowlers are experienced in net with veteran starter Bell Hamre.

Warroad: The Warriors won their first Minnesota state championship since 2011 last season with a dominant 6-1 win over Proctor-Hermantown in the title game.

Losing just three seniors off the 26-3-1 state title team leaves Warroad set up to have another dominant season.

Kate Johnson and Tayla Hendrickson are back as elite forwards, while Rylee Bartz – an all-state forward at Fargo North-South last season – joins the mix.

Bartz has hit the ground running with 21 points through five games.

Warroad assistant coach Blayke Nelson said the older, experienced players have embraced the new players.

“They’re moving the puck and creating things,” he said. “Our defensive corps also went from a strong four to a strong six. We can run six and look like a complete team. Last year, we were maybe a little lopsided most of the year with two defensive pairs and one line.”

As a junior at North-South, Bartz scored 67 goals and racked up 88 points to lead North Dakota in scoring by 37 points.

“It’s fun to watch,” Nelson said. “She’s one of the most complete hockey players I’ve watched, and I’ve watched a lot of hockey. The way she plays defensively translates to the way she gets offensive chances. Her creativity and discipline is something to be admired by our younger players”

Warroad graduated senior goalie Kendra Nordick, who’s now at Hamline University. The Warriors have rotated freshman Jordyn Werk and senior Kate Stephens, who played at Northern Lakes last season.

“We’ve found a good tandem,” Nelson said. “We’re rotating the first five games here to give them a shot and see who emerges as a starter,”

Warroad also received the addition of defender Lexi Kirkeby, who scored 46 points at Jamestown last season. Kirkeby is committed to Assumption College in Worcester, Mass.

BOYS TEAMS TO WATCH

East Grand Forks: The Green Wave went 9-18 last season before falling to state power Warroad in the section semifinals.

East Grand Forks loses star forward Jaksen Panzer, a UND commit who’s playing with Sioux Falls in the USHL. Panzer had 30 goals to lead the team by 16 goals.

Brock Schultz returns as the team’s top returning scorer. Schultz had 14 goals and 20 assists last season.

“Brock took a good step last year and into the offseason,” EGF coach Tyler Palmiscno said. “We need him to take another step for the next three months. He plays with pace and has a physical element. He has all the components to be a good leader.”

Grady Magner and Caleb Schmiedeberg return with more than 18 points last season. Magner, who was moved from forward to defense last season and will continue in that role this year, had nine goals and 19 assists, while Schmiedeberg had eight goals and 10 assists.

The Wave return both of their top goalies from a year ago in juniors Lucas Wavra and Chase Mero.

GF Central: The Knights lost four of their top five scorers from a 13-10-0 team that missed the state tournament a year ago.

Colton Bjorge leads the returners with a team-high 19 goals and seven assists last year.

Wyatt Wockenfuss leads the defense that loses the experience of standout Dillon Kuntz, who now plays in the NAHL.

The Knights’ strength will be in balanced depth.

“I think it’s scoring by-committee,” Central coach Grant Paranica said. “It’s going to be a team effort if we’re going to have some success. It’ll have to be a full-group effort.”

Central returns its top two goalies from last season in juniors Jaxon Washburg and Preston Diederich.

“Our goaltending battle is great,” Paranica said. “Hopefully that continues and they can help each other get better.”

GF Red River: The defending state champion Roughriders return their top four scorers from last season in Carter Sproule, Mikey Coleman, Carson Skarperud and Mason Reynolds.

The Riders lose valuable defenders Wyatt LeDuc and Cooper Freije but brings back a big, physical defensive corps in Mason Ray (6-foot, 210 pounds), Garrett Eickman (6-3, 205) and Mason Stroh (6-5, 215).

“We’ve got eight returning forwards from last year with a lot of skill and ability,” Red River coach Tim Skarperud said.

Sophomore Tyson Ulmer is a newcomer who will crack the top three forward lines for the Riders.

Red River lost starting goalie Noah Burger from last season. Backup Jake Jenkins is the most experienced returning netminder. The Riders have split early games between the senior Jenkins and sophomore Bryar Werre.

“The other goalies with us aren’t far behind, either,” Skarperud said. “There’s good depth now and guys are pushing each other.”

Roseau: The Rams went 21-5-1 last year before falling in the Section 8AA semifinals.

Roseau loses standout forward Max Strand, a Vermont commit who’s playing in the USHL this season.

The Rams turn to Noah Urness, who had 24 goals and 35 assists last season.

“He’s a special player,” Roseau coach Greg Lund said. “His motor doesn’t stop. He’s go, go, go.”

Forwards Preston Lundbohm, Tanner George, Gavin Jensen and Jake Halvorson will also find the scoresheet with Urness.

Roseau goalie Conner Woidtke was a part-time starter last season.

“He’s improved over the summer,” Lund said. “Right now, he’s taking the bull by the horns.”

Roseau’s defensive corps is led by senior defenseman Aaron Wensloff, who’s also a standout baseball player committed to Minnesota-Crookston.

“The defense is playing well, getting the puck out and getting in the other end,” Lund said.

Warroad: Warroad is coming off a 26-4-1 season in which the Warriors fell 3-2 to Hermantown in the state title game.

Warroad’s dynamic duo of a year ago – Jayson Shaugabay and Daimon Gardner – is down to one with Clarkson-committed Gardner (45 goals in 2021-22) playing in the USHL after his senior season.

Shaugabay, who’s committed to Minnesota-Duluth, had 27 goals and 55 assists last year.

“(Shaugabay) was outstanding in both of our games so far,” Warroad coach Jay Hardwick said. “He’s been very good for us for three years. I think he’s just took that next step after playing this fall in the USHL.”

Aside from Shaugabay, the Warriors return standout goalie Hampton Slukynsky and two forwards with more than 30 points last season. Carson Pilgrim had 17 goals and 14 assists, while Murray Marvin-Cordes added 15 goals and 19 assists.

Slukynsky is committed to Northern Michigan.

“If he’s not the best in the state, he’s definitely one of the best,” Hardwick said.

Defenseman Erick Comstock also added four goals and 31 assists last year.

“I think the big thing for us is bringing those younger guys along,” Hardwick said. “We lost some people up front. I think the guys that are here now, they’ve done well so far but it’ll be a learning and growing experience. After the Shaugabay line, we’ve got about nine or 10 forwards that any given day could be in our lineup. It’s good we have a lot of those guys coming for those spots. I’m hoping as the year goes, we’re going to get more secondary scoring from guys like that.”

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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