Chippewa Falls had one of its finest seasons in school history a season ago, winning 18 games and advancing all the way to the sectional final. Must replace All-Area player of the year Jordan Steinmetz, who scored 32 goals and dished out 22 assists. He now plays for the NAHL’s Janseville Jets. Also have to replace all-conference defenseman Eric Swenson. Blayde Bowe and Chase Hoople also graduated. Top returner is Lucas Steinmetz, who scored scored 16 goals and 14 assists last season. Zech Wills-Galindo, Tate Brisky and Jack Schimmel are back on offense. Couper Fosvik and Bryce Elkin are back on defense. Freshman Isaac Frenette has a game-winning goal this year already. Coached by Scott Parker. ... Eau Claire Memorial knocked off No. 2 Wausau West and No. 4 Green Bay Notre Dame over Thanksgiving weekend before throttling Rice Lake 9-2 in the conference opener on Thursday night. It have a weapon everybody wants, and that’s a goaltender who can win a game on his own. Returning first-team all-state and three-year starter Trevor Hudecek had a .925 save percentage last year and stopped 681 pucks. Early this year, he has a .951 save percentage entering Saturday. Ben Zacho, a first-team all-area forward, had 19 goals and 30 assists last season. Also back is Brenden Olson and Joe Free on offense, as well as Josh Berg and Kaden Kohlhepp on defense. Qualified for state for eighth-straight season last year. Must replace first-team all-state defenseman Dawson Schwengler as well as honorable mention all-state center Sam Hanson. First-year coach Jeff Tok is a former Badgers player. ... Eau Claire North returns one of the area’s top players in Sam Stange, who already has 14 points in three games this season. He’s joined by linemate Jeff Pippenger, who had 19 goals and 23 assists last season. Huskies finished 18-6 last year and lost to Chippewa Falls in sectional semifinals. Made it to the sectional final two years ago. Lost defenseman Zac Stange, now playing baseball at Winona State, to graduation. Also lost contributors Jacob Schafter, Carson Lemanski and Aslan Akervik. Juniors Brendon Fitch and Cal Fadness will have bigger roles. Senior defenseman Ryan Venne, a Lindenwood baseball commit, also returns. Sophomores Zach Urdahl and Joey Koller contributed to the team as freshmen and will have a bigger role. ... Hudson marched to a 25-2 record last season en route to the WIAA state title, their first since 2004. Lost a lot of players from that team, including state defenseman of the year Chase Blackmun, who is a UMass-Lowell commit. Also lost leading goal-scorer Aaron Grounds, an Ohio State recruit, to the USHL. Starting goaltender Anthony Howard, who had a .934 save percentage and was the state’s goalie of the year, also is gone. Jordon Halverson, Grady Gornick, Jack Flattum and Cole Danielson return. Aaron Squires and Peyton Hanson have also contributed early. Goalie Alex Cohen has a .953 save percentage through three games. Ranked No. 1 in the state to begin the year. Coached by Brooks Lockwood. ... Menomonie returns its top two scorers in Nate Frank and Carter Davidson, who both had 14 last year. First-year coach Matt Ellis takes over a team that went 2-22 a year ago, but the Mustangs already have matched their win total with victories over Regis/Altoona/McDonell and Amery to begin the year. ... Rice Lake made it to the sectional semifinals last year but lost to eventual state qualifier Memorial. Lost a lot of production from a year ago as top scorer Steve Scheurer and starting goalie Hunter Holmes graduated. Sam Bliese was second on the team in scoring with 12 goals and eight assists and is back. Brandon Sutton was one of the team’s top defensemen and is also back. Coached by former Badger Josh Engel. ... River Falls went 6-19 a year ago for a sixth-place finish in BRC. Wyatt Grundstrom is team’s top returner with 10 goals and seven assists last year. Jake Bergmanis had eight goals and seven assists, while Logan Graetz had eight goals and six assists. Both return. Starting goalie Jake Miller (.879 save percentage) is back between the pipes.
Regis/Altoona/McDonell turns to first-year coach Nick Stirmel, a former Altoona standout who just wrapped up a college career at Aurora. Plenty of depth to go around on the co-op that came on strong at the end of last year and won a playoff game at Medford before being knocked out in a regional final by Memorial. Kolten Wright is the team’s top returner after putting up 28 points. Nolan Hellegers (16 points) and Austin Erickson (12 points) also return. The co-op loses Daniel Laatsch (18 points), Cole Struck (16 points) and Marcus Bourget (12 points). ... Baldwin-Woodville has been one of the highest scoring teams in the area the past couple of years. Finished 18-4 last season. Landon Albrightson is back after scoring 54 points last season. Lose one of the state’s leading scorers in Brandon Connett. Coached by Rick Coltrain.