Because of an injury, Jake Kluver's football season ended earlier than expected.
The Little Falls senior hopes to make up for the lost time by helping the Flyer boys' hockey team return to the Class 1A state tournament.
Kluver returns in net for the Flyers, who finished 21-10-0 last season (11-0-0 in Section 4-1A play) and reached the state tournament for the first time in school history.
Last year Kluver stopped 89.3 percent of the shots he faced and finished with 617 saves and a 3.0 goals-against average.
Little Falls Flyers
Key: The Flyers need to replace 144 points that graduated with Steve Festler and Mikael Lickteig
2004-05 record: 21-10-0 overall, 11-0-0, Section 4A
2005-06 roster: Seniors: Joey Cotton (9 goals, 38 points), Jim Pender (2 goals, 15 points), Matt Boone (0 goals, 5 points), Zach Beattie (1 goal, 3 points), TJ Ringwelski (3 goals, 3 points), Butch Rakow (0 goals, 1 points), Robin McGillis, Paul Feiler, Jake Kluver
Juniors: Lukas Jorgensen (13 goals, 26 points), Luke Faufau (2 goals, 4 points), Dan Stoerzinger (1 goal, 2 points), Justin Peterschick, Kelly Stoy, Zak Klosowski
Sophomores: Jared Festler (16 goals, 40 points), Beau Hanowski (13 goals, 26 points), Zak Laird, Andrew Lange, Matt Anez
Freshmen: Ben Hanowski, Michael Sperl
Still not 100 percent healthy after a torn medial collateral ligament sidelined the quarterback, Kluver should be fine for the hockey season. If not, freshman Michael Sperl will play.
"Any time you get your starting goalie back that is a plus," said Flyers head coach Tony Couture. "Then, with a solid backup, I think we'll do all right. Jake will get healthy in the near future and hopefully pick up where he left off last year."
The Flyers' main question will be replacing 68 goals and 144 points that graduated with Steve Festler and Mikael Lickteig. The two finished 1-2 in Section 4 scoring.
Taking over as the top line will be sophomores Jared Festler, Beau Hanowski and junior Lukas Jorgensen.
Last year Jared Festler was fifth in the section with 16 goals and 40 points. Hanowski had 13 goals and 29 points and Jorgensen followed with 13 goals and 26 points.
"Last year they were our second line as two freshmen and a sophomore," said Couture. "There is a lot of potential for scoring.
"We do have Ben Hanowski who was a highly touted player as a ninth-grader. We moved him up early and he has the makings to be one of our best players."
Ben Hanowski made the final cut for Minnesota's Select 15 team and is rated one of the top 100 players for his age group, said Couture.
Senior captains Joey Cotton and Jim Pender return on defense. Last year Cotton was sixth in the section with 9 goals and 38 points. Pender finished with 2 goals and 15 points.
"We have all of our defense back except one player," said Couture. "We have to play good defense as a team, that includes our forwards and our defensemen. That's where we lacked last year. We got down to state and in three games we gave up 21 goals.
"I'm not worried about our offense, I'm more worried about keeping the puck out of the net."
In their state debut, the Flyers lost to Duluth Marshall 9-2, beat Shakopee 4-3 and lost to Albert Lea 9-1.
In order to get back to state the Flyers will have to contend with Alexandria, which dropped down from 2A. Couture also believes Fergus Falls will be back on top with Wadena-Deer Creek.
But the Flyers have quiet confidence after last year's success and the knowledge of what it takes to get to state.
"Anytime you get to the state tournament you come back next year with high expectations," said Couture. "The players feel more confident and the coaching staff feels more confident."
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.