Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Vikings Are Young, but Experienced, Says Hopeful Coach

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Vikings Are Young, but Experienced, Says Hopeful Coach

Article excerpt

For coach Jim Hofer and the Francis Howell team of the Mid-States Club Hockey Association, the theme for the 1993-94 season is patience.

"We lost about 80 percent of our team from last year," said Hofer, who begins his third season with the Vikings. "But don't get the wrong idea. This team is really young, but these players have played a lot of youth hockey. It'll take us some time to get to know each other, to adjust to the game at this level and to develop as a team, but I expect us to be competitive.

"I see this as a team that'll be somewhere around .500, hopefully with a chance to make some noise in the playoffs."

A year ago, the Vikings finished 8-11-7, losing in a sudden-death mini-game to St. Mary's in the playoff quarterfinals. Howell finished strong, going 5-1-4 before losing to St. Mary's.

"We made a lot of progress last season and I'm hopeful this team can make that same kind of progress," Hofer said. "We're young, but we seem to have some good talent on this team. Once we get everything settled, I think we'll play some good hockey."

Hofer is expecting big things from his returning players - junior defenseman Julie Iler, sophomore defenseman Mike Keller, junior goaltender Keith Layton and junior forward Dave Conover.

Iler, an out-of-district player from Pattonville, is one of Mid-States' few female players.

"Julie's a player," Hofer said. "She goes to school at Pattonville, but we consider her a Francis Howell person at heart."

Iler, a standout on the Pattonville High softball team that placed second in Class 4A in the fall, will team with Anton Ruesing as Howell's top defensive unit. Ruesing, the team's captain and lone senior, is a transfer from Ladue.

"We're expecting a lot of Julie and Anton," Hofer said. "With such a young team, we'll need to be strong on defense."

The other top defensive pairing features Keller and freshman Jarrett Hillebrand, an out-of-district player from Edwardsville, Ill.

The Vikings also need some solid goaltending. Layton and fellow junior Craig Schellenbach will split time there. Schellenbach is an out-of-district player from Lindbergh High.

"They both seem to have some good ability," Hofer said. "And they'll both see plenty of action."

At forward, the Vikings will look to freshman Mark Ackermann, Jason Monroe and Chris Wollmershauser on one line while Conover joins freshmen Chad Moroni and Alex Ruesing on the other. Moroni attends Westminster Christian Academy.

"Our forwards are real young, so it's going to take us some time to come together there," Hofer said. "They've all played hockey before, but the game is played a little differently at the high school level. I know they can adjust, but it's not going to happen overnight."

Hofer said that the team's other members - junior forward Rob Bell, sophomore forward Chris Smith, freshman defenseman David Jansen and freshmen forwards Brian Tucker and Mike Land - are still learning to play the game. …

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