Eau Claire (WQOW) -- Eau Claire Memorial and Eau Claire North are on the ice preparing for the 2012-13 season.
Memorial is a three-time defending WIAA sectional champion. Six seniors return for head coach Mike Schwengler, but the Old Abes also graduated some key contributors, while all-state defenseman Michael Kapla is now playing in the USHL.
"There's a few kids that played JV last year that are obviously going to get a chance to play at the varsity level," says Memorial head coach Mike Schwengler, "and you know there's some younger guys that are going to get a good shake, and we'll see what happens, that's what these three days are for, we have four months to get this thing right, get ready for playoff time. We have younger goaltending this year as well, we haven't had that in a while, and with a younger defense and younger goaltending we're going to have some stumbles but you know, it's our job to make them better, and put them in positions and give them opportunities to succeed."
"We have a strong junior class coming back," Schwengler says, "we have some sophomores that saw some time as freshmen, and it's a new season, we always say at the end of a season, starting new, the next year, it's not always bad, it's not always good, it's just different, and it's our job to put the pieces to the puzzle try to make us as competitive as we can be."
Memorial starts the season on Friday, November 23, as they host a tournament that includes defending state champ Green Bay Notre Dame, and perennial powers Wausau West, and Superior.
Eau Claire North is looking for improvement this season. The Huskies dealt with low numbers last year and finished with an overall record of 2-22-2. There are more players out this season, just one reason why second-year head coach Jordan Fish is optimistic.
"First of all, our numbers are going to be a lot better," Fish says, "we can roll three lines, so that's going to help us stay fresh in the later periods."
North features one of the area's better goalies in Bryce Kamenick, but Fish hopes his defense can keep Kamenick from being peppered like he was last season.
"We have to play from our goaltender out," says Fish, "we know that's a strength coming in, and we can design some things to help do that but also take a little pressure off of him, I mean, he can't see 60 shots a game like he did last year for us to be successful."
Despite a lack of wins last season, Fish sees some good things on the horizon for North, and is doing everything he can to keep the Huskies motivated.
"It's just to keep the kids going," says Fish, "hopefully, they can learn and develop, that's what we're going to look at, just the little things, how to play hockey, how to get them going, those are the big things that we're going to focus on right away, get them to compete. I think if you look at the younger levels right now, there is an influx of north side kids, which is going to be huge for us, there's a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of spirit to keep the hockey going on the north side."
North starts its season at a 3-day tournament in Grafton, which begins Friday, November 23.
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