Braves look to repeat recent success on the ice
The Bottineau/Rugby boys hockey team has enjoyed a string of success, earning two state tournament appearances in the past three seasons.
Although this team might not have the depth of previous teams, head coach David Hoff is hoping his team can be in the mix for another state tournament berth at the end of the year.
“The last three years, we’ve had depth, it’s better than we were and as good as some of the bigger schools,” Hoff said. “We aren’t overly deep. We don’t have any freshman so we’re 17 players. It’ll change a little. We’ve got some pretty good top-end players and we have some guys that are new that are going to get in the lineup and get some experience.”
Hoff said a few of the top returners include senior defenseman Cody Longie and junior forward Harrison Aide, who finished fourth in the state in scoring last season with 57 points.
“He’s going to make us a lot better,” Hoff said of Longie’s return to the blue line.
Rugby players who Hoff expects to make a big impact include sophomore defenseman Nigel Hageness and senior Sheldon Thompson.
“Nigel Hageness played awful well for us, played a lot of minutes for us, mostly as a defenseman but filled in some as a forward, which gives us a little flexibility,” Hoff said.
Hoff said Thompson has been the point man in Rugby, where the team will play a home game each month.
“He’s really been our leader on the Rugby end of things,” he said. “The communication of knowing when practices are, he’s done an excellent job. He’s in his third year. I’ve got a lot of good things to say about him. He’s going to get a lot of minutes at forward as well.”
With 4 of the team’s top 6 defensemen returning, Thompson said those units should be solid.
“That’s for sure,” he said. “Hopefully we’ve got some good defense and Riley (Monson) will be good in net. I think our strong point is our defense.”
In 2009-10, the Braves surprisingly reached the state tournament, only to fall to eventual champ Grand Forks Central in the opening round.
A successful 2010-11 regular season ended without a trip to state.
Last season, the Braves, officially Bottineau/Rugby, posted a banner season with a 14-1 West Region record and another trip to state.
Once again, the Braves fell to the eventual champion in the first round, dropping a 4-1 decision to Fargo North.
B/R nearly earned an elusive state tournament win in the consolation bracket, but fell to Bismarck High 1-0.
Hoff expects the Demons to be among the best in the West Region again.
“Bismarck High, where they’ve finished the last couple of years and what they bring back, they should be the odds-on favorite in the West Region,” Hoff said. “Bismarck Century has been awfully good the last few years and Minot has some good young players. I’d like to see us be in the middle of the region, give ourselves a chance at the end to be in that mix. I like some of the guys I have if we are in a one-game situation, win to get to Grand Forks, I like some of the talent we have.”
With four games scheduled for November, the Braves are ready to hit the ice and compete.
“I’ve been really happy the first two weeks, how things have gone. We need to get on the ice and play a few games and see where we’re at,” Hoff said.