carson van zuilen

Carson VanZuilen is back for his fourth and final season of varsity hockey this winter, and will lead a Northfield team with eight seniors and goals of a Big 9 Conference title. (File Photo/southernminn.com)

VARSITY ROSTER

Joel Gehrke, senior, forward

Bohde Hasse, senior, forward

Isak Johnson, senior, defense

Josh Kruger, senior, defense

Micah Olson, senior, goalie

Davis Royle, senior, forward/defense

Will Tidona, senior, forward

Carson VanZuilen, senior, forward

Ryan Will, senior, forward

Matthew DeBuse, junior, defense

Luke Johnson, junior, defense

Spencer Klotz, junior, forward

Allan Royle, junior, defense

Michael Fossum, sophomore, defense

Cullen Merritt, sophomore, forward

Gabe Sawyer, sophomore, forward

Keaton Walock, sophomore, goalie

Cayden Monson, freshman, forward

2021 SCHEDULE

Jan. 14 — at Dodge County, 7 p.m.

Jan. 16 — vs. Albert Lea, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 19 — at Mankato East, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 23 — at Rochester John Marshall, 3 p.m.

Jan. 26 — vs. Rochester Century, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 28 — at Owatonna, 7 p.m.

Feb. 2 — at Rochester Mayo, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 4 — vs. Winona, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 9 — vs. Austin, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 12 — at Mankato West, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 18 — at Red Wing, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 20 — vs. Mankato East, 2 p.m.

Feb. 25 — vs. Rochester John Marshall, 5 p.m.

Feb. 27 — vs. Rochester Mayo, 7:15 p.m.

March 4 — vs. Owatonna, 7:15 p.m.

March 8 — at Faribault, 7:15 p.m.

March 10 — vs. New Prague, 7:15 p.m.

March 13 — at Rochester Century, 7:15 p.m.

KEY MATCHUPS

Jan. 26 vs. Rochester Century — The Big 9 Conference title appears to be up for grabs. After two years of domination, the Panthers are a bit of a question mark entering this season after the graduations of Joey Malugani and Lyncoln Bielenberg-Howarth, who tallied 69 and 68 points last year, respectively.

Junior forward Aidan Swee is the leading returning scorer from last season, and registered 14 goals and 22 points, which was the fifth-highest total on the team. Rochester Century also graduates its primary goalie, Tim Pundt. This is not all to say the Panthers will lack talent this season, it’s just that they are prone to be beaten for the first time in the past few seasons. How a Northfield team with eight seniors handles Rochester Century in this early-season matchup may dictate the Big 9 title hopes for both teams. These two teams will also play March 13 in Rochester in the final game of the regular season.

Jan. 28 at Owatonna — Two days later, and the Raiders face off against a Husky team that finished second in the Big 9 last season and returns plenty of seniors. Owatonna swept last season’s two-game set with the help of a 4-3 overtime win in Owatonna, and three of the last four games between these two geographic rivals have been decided by only one goal. This might also be a matchup of the best senior forwards the Big 9 has to offer. The Huskies feature the fearsome tandem of Dom Valento (20 goals, 22 assists) and Zach Kubicek (23 goals, 17 assists), while the Raiders will counter with Carson Van Zuilen (15 goals, 38 assists), who rapidly climbed up the all-time state assist leaderboard. These two teams will also play March 4 in Northfield.

Feb. 20 vs. Mankato East — It’s possible that neither Valento, Kubicek nor VanZuilen hold the title of best senior forward in the Big 9 thanks to Mankato East’s Layton Liffrig. Last year, Liffrig racked up 29 goals and 34 assists to help carry a sub-.500 into the Class A state tournament, along with the since-graduate Matthew Salze. The supporting cast has not always been the strongest for the Cougars, but Liffrig may possess the talent to dominate a high school hockey game on his own. In July, he was drafted in the first round of the NAHL draft by the Minnesota Magicians, but will wait until next season to start playing for the Richfield-based team. This will be the second matchup between the two teams this season, with the first coming Jan. 19 in Mankato.

Reach Sports Editor Michael Hughes at 645-1106 or follow him on Twitter @APGSoMnHughes. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Sports Editor for the Northfield News. Also a California native looking for tips on surviving the winter and an Indiana University grad on the quest for a good breaded pork tenderloin.

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