Boys Hockey: Polars return to the ice loaded with seniors

Oliver twins’ firepower helps fuel optimism

The North High boys hockey squad is looking forward to a stellar season.

Coach Jerry Diebel stated recently, “We are returning 14 seniors. Most of those returning to our team are coming back with varsity experience.

“Additionally, we have great leadership among those coming back. The Oliver twins (Tyler and Justin) are returning for their fourth year with the varsity. Both were named All-Conference last season.

Diebel said, “Throughout the summer most of the players put in a lot of hard work. Our summer conditioning sessions were well attended.”

If North has a weakness this season, it may show up in the goaltending. Stellar puck-stopper Mario Bollman graduated last spring.

“We need to find a goaltender,” Diebel said. “We hope to find someone who will perform on a consistent basis for us.

“We think we have some who ... will step up to the challenge.”

While Diebel has some apprehensions about the depth at the goalie position, he appears very confident about his team’s offensive firepower. Diebel said, “We should have the ability to score on the power play, and we have several sharpshooters who can score.

“The team has worked very hard during the early practices,” he added.

The coaching staff knows that for the Polars to compete with the top teams in the Classic Suburban Conference, they will have to start out strong and adjust quickly when they make mistakes.

“We must improve our play in our defensive end,” stated the veteran coach, who has already announced this will be his final season. “We must make it difficult for opponents to play in front of our net.”

Leading the Polars will be a bevy of senior captains. The group includes forwards Jimmy Salava and the Oliver twins, goalie Steve Orme and defenseman John Anderson.

It didn’t take long for Diebel to point to perennial CSC powers St. Thomas Academy and defending-champion Hill-Murray as most likely to be teams to beat if North is going to claim a piece of the title come March.

Helping Diebel in his duties will be veteran assistants John Anderson, Thom O’Neill and Nate Peasley.

In addition to the captains, other seniors listed on the North roster include forwards Jack Murnane, Matt Beaulieu and Alex Kroska; defensemen Luke Johnson, Tyler Steiner, Adam Hildebrandt, Patrick McNeely and Travis Zappa, along with senior goalie Michael Diedrich.

North plays its home games in Polar Arena. The Polars open the season at home Tuesday, Nov. 26, at 8 p.m. against Hastings. Then they play Irondale at Polar Arena Saturday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m., before taking to the road Thursday, Dec. 5, to play Red Wing at 7 p.m. at the Prairie Island Arena.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at wwakefield@lillienews.com.

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