With 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 North Branch.
How last season went
North Branch had a historic 2018-2019 season, making its first State Tournament in program history and advancing to the Consolation Championship to really put themselves on the map. With many players returning, North Branch looked to repeat their prowess and prove themselves once again. The Vikings came out of the gates hot, winning 11 of their first 13 games and outscoring opponents 62-20 during that stretch. Everything seemed to be clicking until the final month of the season where they lost 4 of 5 games in February. Still, the Vikings finished the regular season with an impressive record of 17-8-0, good for 2nd in the Mississippi 8 Conference.
Entering playoffs, North Branch earned the #2 seed in Section 5A for the second consecutive year and matched up against #7 seeded Chisago Lakes. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the “February Blues” continued as they ran into a hot goaltender and ultimately would see their season come to an end, losing 1-2 to the Wildcats.
Who’s back and who’s gone
Here’s the scary part for anyone reading this article in Section 5A: North Branch is returning their top 3 scorers(25G, 30A), (20G, 22A), and (26G, 14A). These rising seniors combined for 137 points last season and already have state tournament experience. Also coming back is their top-scoring defenseman , who had 5 goals and 17 assists from the blue line.
The biggest test for the Vikings, besides not having a home-ice advantage for another year, will be replacing senior goaltender. Turek shined in net for the past two seasons, posting a solid 34-15-2 record, with a 2.38 GAA and a .922 SV% for the Vikings. Taking his place will most likely be rising junior , who started five games last season, finishing with a 2-3 record, 4.40 GAA, and a .871 SV%.
Another change for the Vikings will be the addition of Jacob Mars, who will be the team’s new head coach for the 2020-2021 season. Mars has been coaching in the Minnesota High Performance Program since 2011 and has been an assistant coach or a Junior Varsity head coach for Minnehaha Academy, Simley, and Coon Rapids.
What to expect next season
North Branch has been a powerhouse in Section 5A for the past five years, and that won’t be changing anytime soon. With their top line coming back, a highly touted new head coach, and a hockey arena currently being built in Stacy Minnesota, look for the Vikings program to be back in the Xcel Energy Center soon.