HIBBING — If there’s one thing Hibbing/Chisholm High School girls hockey coach Pete Hyduke wants out of his 2021 team, it’s being hard-nosed and aggressive.
In that sense, that will be the teams’ identity when the season opens today when the Bluejackets host Proctor/Hermantown, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Hibbing Memorial Arena.
It’s still too early to tell, but Hyduke said this team is heading in the right direction.
“That’s what we’re trying to stress with this team,” Hyduke said. “One of the strengths of this team can be our skating, and we have to use that to our advantage. We have to take away time and space.
“This team has the ability, with our speed, to create different situations to the benefit of our team.”
That hard work will be vital when it comes to goal scoring. Hyduke isn’t sure what kind of goal scorers he will have, but they have to scrap and fight for every goal.
“Whether we have a pure goal scorer or not, we’ll find out as the season goes on,” Hyduke said. “We lost some nice players last year. They were scorers for us. We lost a good bit of our scoring last year, so some of the kids will have to pick up the slack.
“There’s many ways to accomplish that. You can do it as a team. You can do it individually. This is a team that has to work hard. If they work hard, they can have some success.”
Leading the way for Hibbing/Chisholm will be seniors Makenna Folstad, Dorothy Kearney, Maddie Rewertz, Courtney Anderson and Elyssa Durie.
“I’ve got a great group of seniors,” Hyduke said. “They all come in with experience. Most of them played in a state tournament (2017). They know what it’s like. They know what we’re trying to achieve by the end of the year.”
The junior class consists of Megan Bussey, Julia Gherardi and Annika Lundell.
“I like all three of them,” Hyduke said. “I like the depth. I like what I’m seeing out of my upperclassmen. There’s a lot of camaraderie. The kids are getting along well, and they’re focused.
“I’m pleased with how my upperclassmen have been working in our first week of practice.”
Those upperclassmen are mentoring sophomores Claire Rewertz, Monroe Rewertz, Abigail Sullivan and Madison St. George, and freshmen Aune Boben, Tristan Warmbold, Addison Hess and Grace McDowell.
“Boben played a regular shift for us last year,” Hyduke said. “Trista has worked her way into the lineup. Both Grace and Addison saw varsity time last year. Most of the kids on the team have had varsity experience, which helps when we’re running our systems and working on a lot of our practice stuff.
“They’ve seen it before. It’s more of a refresher for them.”
There’s also a crew of eighth-graders, who could vie for playing time.
“That has to play itself out,” Hyduke said. “There’s kids battling to get into the varsity lineup, and become a part of our final lineup by the end of the year.
“We usually leave spots open, so they have that competition all year. They have something to strive for.”
The goalies are Hess and McDowell. The Bluejackets have had a long line of outstanding netminder, and Hess and McDowell will try to keep that tradition going.
“They both had some good games last year,” Hyduke said. “Addison played in our region semifinal game last year. They know what to expect. They know the caliber of the teams we play.
“They’ve played against some of the better teams in our section, and they know they have to be at the top of their games to have success. They’ve been working hard, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can accomplish this year.”
The defensive corps looks like this: Maddie Rewertz and Sullivan; Monroe Rewertz and Anderson; and Reese Story and St. George.
“For the most part, we return our D corps,” Hyduke said. “We moved one of our D up to forward. Maddie and Courtney have been three-year starters for us. We have experience.
“Abigail and Monroe played some varsity last year, then we have some younger kids battling. We have the depth. We can move kids back-and-forth if we need to, but we do have experience on the blueline.”
Hyduke did say that there will be some challenging times this season, but he’s grateful that there’s going to be a season.
“Waiting to start a season has been tough on the kids,” Hyduke said. “On the flip side, it made them excited to get the season started. That’s a positive. When they added the mask mandate, some kids have struggled with getting used to wearing a mask.
“Hockey is such a high-tempo game. It’s not like you can sit on a chair and take it off when you’re not playing. It’s a unique situation for us. It’s something they have to get used to.”
Hyduke likened it to the days when caged masks came into play.
“Everyone said we can’t play with a cage, but it’s second nature,” he said. “The masks, they’re doing a better job designing them for better breathing even though they’re doing their jobs from a safety point of view.”
Hibbing/Chisholm will be put to the test right away with the Mirage coming to town. Hyduke will find out a lot about his team in this first game.
“We’re right into the fire,” Hyduke said. “They bring back the wealth of their team. They’re outstanding right now. They have a lot of depth. They have a solid JV, a great varsity and their U15 team was ranked No. 1 in the state last year.
“They’re reloading. One of the things I love about our section is we have a great one. We’ve had five different teams over the years that have gone to the state tournament, which is unheard of in girls hockey.”
The Bluejackets won’t back down from the challenge.
“We know we have our work cut out for us, but that’s great,” Hyduke said. “You wouldn’t want to start any other way. We’re going to be thrown right into the fire, and we’ll have to compete from day one.
“We’re going to know where we need to be, and what we need to do. I’m hoping the girls will compete hard, and I’m looking forward to playing as they are, too.”