With most sports on hold and the 2020-21 season still months out, it’s time to take a look at teams from all over the State of Hockey and examine what happened this past season and what’s ahead. The next team we’re breaking down is Mankato West.
How last season went
The Scarlets play in a Big Nine conference that’s tough in just about every sport and has garnered respect around the state. That’s no different when it comes to boys’ hockey. Mankato West fended off tough opponents to finish fourth in the conference standings. The biggest contribution to that finish came in January. From Jan. 9 to Jan. 30, the Scarlets won six consecutive games. One negative, however, was the fact Mankato West dropped its next three contests.
Despite that little bump in the road, the Scarlets earned the No. 2 seed in Section 1A. After a pair of wins, Mankato West faced off against crosstown rival Mankato East/Loyola in the section final. The Cougars had already pulled off one upset as the No. 4 seed and did so again as the Scarlets came up one game short of the state tournament.
Who’s back and who’s gone
There’s good news for Scarlet fans: The talent ready to come back is substantial. While Jack Wittenberg and Nathan Looft depart after combining for 21 goals and 37 assists, the other two players who finished in the top four in points appear to be returning for Mankato West. Brandon Swensen returns after a 17-goal, 16-assist 2019-20 season. Gavin Brunmeier also returns after a 26-point season (10 goals, 16 assists).
The other big returner is goaltender Caleb Cross. He’ll back in net for the Scarlets as he finished last season with a 2.26 goals against average and .905 save percentage.
What to expect next season
This might be going out on a limb, but it appears for Mankato West that next season should be a state-or-bust kind of season. The Scarlets nearly took their talents to Xcel Energy Center. And with a No. 4 seed coming out of this section, it’s clear just about any team in Section 1A has a shot at a state tournament berth.