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Moose Lake hockey promises plenty of action

MLA girls team should be a force

After grinding out an 8-11 record during a Covid season a year ago, the Moose Lake Area Rebels girls hockey team is raring to go.

“I thought that despite Covid and overcoming so many obstacles, our girls had a great season,” said coach Reilly Fawcett. “We were a young team last year and many of our young girls were a huge key to our success. We made it to the second round of playoffs which Moose Lake Area has not done for some time. Proctor/Hermantown — who ended up as Class A state champions — ended our season in a hard-fought battle. We were very proud of the season that we had and we are looking to build off of it.”

The Rebels lost only three players from last season’s squad and, with the return of most of their starters, they hope to take another step toward a state tournament berth. The Rebels will return top point leaders: Gabby Gamst, Sandra Ribich, Raechel Painovich and Hallie Klavu.

The MLA girls also regained Adeline Schmidt, who was a familiar face in the program growing up, but was injured the past couple of years.

“We are excited to have these newcomers in our high school program and we look forward to working with them and developing them,” said Fawcett, adding that seventh-graders Jenna Jusczak and Autumn Painovich also joined the team.

What teams playing the Rebels will need to realize is many of the players on this MLA team DO know how to win. While still pretty young, a number of the players played on the 2018-19 Moose Lake U12 B team that won the state tournament. Those girls are now freshmen and sophomores on this year’s team. “The next season, after winning the state tournament, most of those girls were playing varsity as seventh- and eighth-graders,” Fawcett said.

“We have a strong D core that definitely keeps up in a lot of our games,” Fawcett said. “Last year we struggled with scoring, so that's something that we are really focusing on this year. But we have to have a ‘defense first, offense second’ mentality.”

That defensive mentality will start in the nets, which will be patrolled by goalie Mallory Hartl. The freshman is already a veteran between the pipes.

“She is a huge part of our success and we are looking forward to seeing how she develops over the years,” Fawcett said.

The MLA girls were set to play the Lumberjacks Tuesday night after this week’s Pine Knot News went to press. Look for a story on that game in next week’s paper.

Rebel boys small in numbers, big in heart

Moose Lake Area boys hockey coach Lee Costley perhaps put it best when he said “last year the whole season was a mess.” Costley was talking about how the Covid-19 pandemic affected not only his team, but the schedule, practice times, games being canceled and players opting to not play.

“It was a tough year, to say the least,” said Costley. “There were games where we had only seven guys to play out and had to have one of our goalies skate out and play forward for us.”

After graduating five players from a roster of 12 last year, Costley thought he’d have anywhere from 17 to 18 bodies to start the season. Because of injuries and players leaving due to Covid last season and not returning, the Rebels roster looks to sport about a dozen athletes again.

Last weekend the Rebels played in a scrimmage with 11 players and one goalie, but most of this season they will feature 12 skaters and a pair of goalies.

“We have Henry Dammer, a senior, and Richie Balut, a junior, who will share time in goal,” Costley said. “Balut had to skate as a forward for us in three of our games last year and we’d like to not have to do that again.”

Leading the Rebels on the ice is senior captain Henry Ribich, the Mr. Do Everything guy for MLA.

“Ribich is our leader on and off the ice and in the community,” said Costley. “Henry is one of the best captains I’ve had in all my years of coaching. He is just a quality, top-notch kid. He gets great grades and it is like having another coach on the ice when he plays.”

Joining Ribich as returning players are Sam Knezevich, Ryden Anderson and Everett Gamst.

“All of those guys played a lot last year and all of them made some nice strides,” Costley said.

After going 2-14 last year the Rebels the team is hoping for better things this year.

“It would be nice to experience a full season and schedule without having games canceled due to Covid,” Costley said. “I am hoping we can avoid some of the inconsistencies that happened last year. I just want the boys to learn the game, get better and enjoy playing the game of hockey.”