Winning is fun, but as the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines boys' hockey team is finding out winning means more than that.
Last year's 26-3 overall record, Section 4, Class 1A championship and a first-ever state tournament appearance have pumped new life into the W-DC hockey program.
"One of the positives of going to state is my numbers are way up," said W-DC head coach Scott Woods. "We've done some other things, too, like lower fees and equipment costs and that's a big plus. Our hockey club has made big strides in that department. But getting our program some recognition has helped.
"Usually we'll have 20 to 30 players in our mini mites and mites program combined. We have 60 to 70 right now."
Building on success: The Wolverines hockey program has been revived by last seasons state tournament trip.
Season opener: at Virginia, 7:30 p.m. Friday
26 - at Virginia 7:30 p.m.
27 - at Eveleth-Gilbert 3:15 p.m.
2 - PEQUOT LAKES 7 p.m.
4 - at Kittson Central 3 p.m.
14 - at Park Rapids 7:30 p.m.
16 - at Detroit Lakes 7:30 p.m.
27 - INVITATIONAL
4 - at Crosby Ironton 7 p.m.
6 - PARK RAPIDS 7:30 p.m.
8 - at Prairie Center 3 p.m.
11 - LITTLE FALLS 7 p.m..
13 - MARSHALL 7:30 p.m.
18 - DETROIT LAKES 7 p.m.
21 - at Crookston 7:30 p.m.
25 - at Fergus Falls 7:30 p.m.
27 - BENSON/MORRIS 7 p.m.
28 - KITTSON CENTRAL 7 p.m.
3 - at Pequot Lakes 7 p.m.
5 - at Red Lake Falls 2 p.m.
8 - WILLMAR 7 p.m.
11 - at Little Falls 7:30 p.m.
15 - PRAIRIE CENTER 7:30 p.m.
Another positive is a number of returning players gained the experience and knowledge to know how to get back to state.
Senior forward Dustin Postell is the top returning scorer for W-DC. He collected 15 goals and 27 assists last season with four goals on power plays.
Also back is sophomore Jascha Pettit. Last year he had 13 goals and 18 assists. Seniors Tyler Wolden (6-12) and Steven Cooney (6-11) also return to a team that outscored opponents 164-38 during the regular season.
Defensively W-DC brings back Brandon Kvamme (4-15) and Preston Stearns (6-15).
Also looking to step into more prominent roles are seniors Philip Schmidt (2-1), Zach Henry (3 assists) and Neil Hutson (2-1).
"When you lose 14 seniors it's difficult to replace them, but we have a lot of good returners," said Woods, who believes his team again will have a successful season. "We don't know how deep we are yet. We had so much depth the last two or three years that we don't know what we have left. If we stay relatively injury free we should be up there again.
"We have a lot of newcomers and good young sophomores on the team. There's a couple of good young players who might step into varsity roles."
Goaltending is one question mark. Sophomore Derek Neu has moved up to man the starting spot. While Woods doesn't know much about his rookie goalie, he does have confidence in him.
"He hasn't been a goalie his whole career," Woods said of Neu. "He stepped into that position. He's made some big strides, though. Now he has to take a big one and step into the varsity level. I think he'll do a nice job."
Woods said Little Falls, Fergus Falls, Willmar and his Wolverines are section favorites this season. W-DC's only loss last season was to Little Falls.
"What I think helps is we've had a junior varsity program the past couple of years," said Woods. "We used to just play a limited junior varsity schedule but the last couple of years they played around 20 games.
"Certainly, we're expecting development is going to take place over time. We're not so much learning the varsity game, but stepping into bigger roles when the game is on the line."
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.