The Northfield High School boys’ hockey team charted an impressive 20-6-1 overall record and also claimed first place honors in the always rugged Big 9 Conference with a 16-1-1 record under the direction of head coach Mike Luckraft in 2021-22.
The outlook for the upcoming 2022-23 season is bright for the Raiders, as eight of the team’s top-10 point producers from last year are back on the ice, including All-Conference recipients and team captains junior forward Kamden Kaiser, junior forward Cayden Monson, junior defenseman Ty Frank, senior defenseman Mike Fossum and junior forward Jake Geiger.
In addition, All-Conference senior net minder Keaton Walock also returns after chalking up a stellar 1.89 goals against average that included eight shutouts and a 19-5-1 overall record in 2021-22.
Veteran strength is a key word for the 2022-23 roster at Northfield, as the Raiders look to overcome the loss of graduated senior Spencer Klotz, who ended his legendary prep career last winter with a team leading 34 goals and 57 assists. Of note, Klotz is currently playing junior hockey in the NA3HL in Rochester.
“We will be solid on both defense and offense with good people on both ends of the ice…and we have a goalie (Walock) who is going to help us out a lot too,” Geiger said.
Kaiser added, “We have a lot of great returning players and a couple of younger guys coming up who will be good for us too.”
Despite the loss of Klotz, Northfield’s offense will be in good hands, with the return of five top scorers from the team’s top six in 2021-22. Kaiser, who recently completed his first season as the Raider football team’s starting quarterback, ranked second on the team last year with 30 goals and 22 assists. Monson had 20 goals and 30 assists last year, while Frank was a blue line standout with 5g/25 and Geiger added 12g/10a. To complete the group, Fossum was another defense star in 2021-22 with 22 assists to his credit.
The Raiders brought home their third Big 9 Conference title last year with their lone league setbacks coming with a loss and tie against Rochester Mayo. Last year also saw Northfield compete in the MSHSL Class A tournament after previously skating in the Class AA tournament. In the 2022 MSHSL Section 1A tournament, number one seed Northfield opened with a convincing 7-2 victory over Red Wing before bowing out of tournament play with a 3-2 loss against New Prague in the semifinals. The tournament setback last winter has since proven to be a source of inspiration for this year’s team.
“Obviously we didn’t end where we wanted to and we got cut short in the section semifinals, but this year most of our team is coming back and we have some newcomers who are willing to put in the work to help us get past the point we reached last year,” Fossum said. “The loss to New Prague has provided us with a lot of motivation to get back on the ice and get us back where we left off last year.”
Northfield will certainly benefit from this year’s leadership corps of captains. Monson commented on his role as one of those with a letter on his sweater.
“As a captain, I am just leading through example and guiding everyone, showing them where to go and how to do drills,” Monson said.
Frank added his insight into his place as a captain on the roster this winter, “I would also say it is pushing the pace in practice…going 100 percent and forcing the guys to do their best and try their hardest each day.”
Northfield, which will include players on its roster this season from nearby Randolph H.S., will feature a squad dominated by juniors but that does not mean the Raiders lack experience on the ice due a limited number of seniors on the team in 2022-23. The key factor is that most of the players on the roster have honed their skills growing up in the Northfield youth hockey association, which has created a strong bond between the Raiders on the ice.
“The camaraderie that we have, especially with so many guys coming back from last year who have already played together is important,” Monson said. “On our lines, we essentially know who were going to pass to and where…it’s really easy with all the returners we have and all the guys we can trust on this team.”
The Raiders hope to continue the success they enjoyed in 2021-22 and added another winning season to the history books in Northfield. Northfield, which started practices this week, will open its season on Nov. 25 at the TRIA Rink in St. Paul against Mahtomedi, followed on Nov., 26 at TRIA with a match against Monticello. Following non-conference tilts against Orono and Rochester Lourdes, Northfield will then begin defense of its Big 9 championship on Dec. 6 at Red Wing.
Northfield fans will then have an opportunity to watch the Raiders in town with their home opener against Faribault on Dec. 10.
“Definitely, one of our goals this season is to make it to state and make a run from there,” Kaiser said.