FORT PIERRE — Despite being without some of their top players for much of the season, the Huron All-Stars will be the fourth seed heading into the South Dakota State Varsity Hockey Tournament, which begins today and runs through Sunday at the Expo Center in Ft. Pierre.
The All-Stars, who went 10-7-1 during the regular season, will battle fifth-seeded Sioux Center, which is 9-8-1, at 5:05 p.m. today in the opening round.
Sioux Falls is the top seed with a 16-0-2 record and will face No. 8 Aberdeen (3-15) at 7:35 p.m. Third-seeded Oahe (13-4-1) will play sixth-seeded Brookings (9-9) in the opening game at 12:05 p.m., while second-seeded Rushmore (14-4) will play No. 7 Watertown (4-13-1) at 2:35 p.m.
“I think the season went really well,” Huron coach Charlie Miner said. “We were short a lot of players throughout the entire season with injuries and so forth, so to end up fourth its a pretty good spot for us.”
Returning to the lineup late in the season for the All-Stars were Walker Schiltz, who sat out a majority of the season after suffering a broken leg in football, and Spencer Busch, who was sidelined midway through the season with shoulder injury. The pair will add considerable experience and some much-needed depth.
“We do have seven seniors this year, where last year we only had one, so we have a more mature team with more experience, which has really helped,” Miner said. “We got a couple key players back, including one we didn’t expect to have back in Spencer Busch, but he’s ready to go.”
Huron will be opening the tournament against a team it owns a pair of victories against in Sioux Center. In fact, the All-Stars closed the regular season with a 7-4 victory against Sioux Center at Bergman Arena.
“I think that’s a good matchup for us, I think we’ll do just fine against Sioux Center,” Miner said. “I think we’re kind of peaking at the right time and the main thing is getting our guys back on the team.”
Xavier Erickson had led Huron this season, scoring 26 of the team’s 77 goals. He also recorded 11 assists.
Carson Duba and Izaiah Phillips finished with 11 and 10 goals, respectively, while Rei Hoops had seven goals.
Phillips recorded a team-high 18 assists, while Lucas Snyder had 10 assists and Cody Ruedebusch had nine assists.
“We really feel we have six really good forwards and we just kind of balance things where the lines seem to work the best,” Miner said.
Jacob Wehde has been the goalie for the All-Stars for a majority of the season. He has 487 saves with a save percentage of .890.
Huron finds itself in the same bracket as top-seeded Sioux Falls, but is prepared to make another run against a team it tied with once during the regular season.
“We have to get by the first one first and then we’ll go from there,” Miner said. “The favorite is Sioux Falls because they are undefeated, but they have been tied by Huron and Oahe.
“We tied them without those two key players,” he said. “We just have to go out there and be ready to play our best hockey at the end of the season.”
The consolation semifinals will be held at 11:35 a.m. and 2:05 p.m. Saturday, with the semifinals to follow at 4:35 and 7:05 p.m.
The consolation championship game is slated for 9:35 a.m. Sunday, followed by the third-place game at 12:35 p.m. And the championship game at 3:35 p.m.