Rangers open State Varsity Hockey Tournament against Oahe

Troy Maroney/Register File: Cody Niklason, shown scoring an unassisted power-play goal during the first period of the Rangers’ 6-4 South Dakota Amateur Hockey Association loss to Mitchell on Nov. 25, 2018, at Larson Ice Center, will be one of the players that Ranger head coach Justin Kirchhevel will need to step up to give Brookings a shot at the state title.

The Rangers open the South Dakota Amateur Hockey Association Varsity State Tournament against the host Capitals on Friday in Ft. Pierre.

The puck drops at 9:35 a.m. for sixth-seeded Brookings and No. 3 Oahe.

Coming into the tournament, No. 1 seed Sioux Falls looks to be the clear favorite as the Flyers haven’t lost a league game this season.

The only blemishes on the top-seeded Flyers’ record are two ties – 4-4 at Oahe and Huron on back-to-back nights – on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3.

But Ranger head coach Justin Kirchhevel isn’t handing the trophy to Sioux Falls yet.

“The top six out of the eight teams are above .500 this year, so it’s going to come down to whoever puts the best three games together,” said Kirchhevel of what it’s going to take to win the tournament. “It’s one game at a time, but at the end of the weekend, it’s basically whoever can have a complete three games.”

Not only will the Rangers need three complete games, their path to the title would take them right through the top three teams, if they knock off the Capitals and the other seeds hold true.

“I’ve never been the sixth seed before,” Kirchhevel said of the Rangers’ situation, “but it will be hard putting three solid games together when we play three tough teams – Oahe has a lot of offensive power; Rapid City comes at you from all angles; and Sioux Falls is a complete team.

“You really have three different teams that you’re looking to play, so you have to play three different styles – I feel optimistic and I’m excited for the challenge.”

What’s it going to take for the Rangers to win it all?

“I think it depends on our goal scoring – we play great team defense usually all of the time – but it’s going to be who’s going to step up and get those dirty goals that we talk about and need,” said Kirchhevel. “It’s just one of those things – we’ll have to see if somebody can step up and be a leader for our team.”

By the Numbers

• No. 3 Oahe (13-3-1-1) vs. No. 6 Brookings (9-9-0-0)

9:35 a.m.

Head-to-Head – The teams split their season series as the Capitals won 4-0 on Jan. 20 in Pierre and the Rangers won 3-0 on Feb. 23 at Larson Ice Center.

CAPITALS: Team – 78 goals scored/53 goals scored against

Individual – Spencer Wedin – 44 points (24 goals/20 assists); Talon Griese – 41 points (11 goals/30 assists); Goalie Tate Mueller – 453 SOG/403 saves = .890 save percentage

RANGERS: Team – 56 goals scored/46 goals scored against

Individual – Max Kjelden – 20 points (16 goals/4 assists); Cody Niklason – 11 points (5 goals/6 assists); Goalie Carter Schulz – 165 SOG/144 saves = .873 save percentage

• No. 2 Rushmore (14-4-0-0) vs. No. 7 Watertown (4-11-1-2)

12:05 p.m.

Head-to-Head – The Thunder posted two victories over the Lakers – 4-2 on Jan. 12 and 7-2 on Jan. 13.

THUNDER: Team – 89 goals scored/36 goals scored against

Individual – Ryan Nolan – 31 points (14 goals/17 assists); Blake DeVries – 30 points (18 goals/12 assists); Goalie John Young – 250 SOG/228 saves = .912 save percentage; Goalie Abraham Partridge – 155 SOG/141 saves = .910 save percentage

LAKERS: Teams – 50 goals scored/82 goals scored against

Individual – Jacob VanDusseldorp – 17 points (7 goals/10 assists); Mason Evans – 16 points (9 goals/ 7 assists); Goalie Jared Fedt – 337 SOG/288 saves = .855 save percentage; Goalie Karter Brandenburger – 198 SOG/165 saves = .833 save percentage

•  No. 4 Huron (10-7-1-0) vs. No. 5 Sioux Center (9-8-1-0)

2:35 p.m.

Head-to-Head – The All Stars beat the Storm twice during the regular season – 6-3 on Jan. 27 and 7-4 on March 13 in their home finale.

ALL STARS: Team – 78 goals scored/53 goals scored against

Individual – Xavier Erickson – 37 points (26 goals/11 assists); Izaiah Phillips – 28 points (10 goals/18 assists); Goalie Jacob Wehde – 547 SOG/487 saves = .890 save percentage

STORM: Team – 76 goals scored/72 goals scored against

Individual – Canyon Brown – 34 points (22 goals/12 assists); Taylor De Jager – 19 points (12 goals/7 assists); Goalie Blake Cannegieter – 321 SOG/286 saves = .891 save percentage; Goalie Sunny Brown – 318 SOG/281 saves = .884 save percentage

• No. 1 Sioux Falls (16-0-2-0) vs. No. 8 Aberdeen (3-13-0-2)

5:05 p.m.

Head-to-Head – The teams played once with the host Flyers beating the Cougars, 7-1, on Dec. 1.

FLYERS: Team – 94 goals/20 goals against

Individual – Sam Siegel – 27 points (16 goals/11 assists); Braden Malwitz – 26 points (9 goals/17 assists); Carter Tobin – 20 points (9 goals/11 assists); Goalie Anthony Seykora – 287 SOG/275 saves = .958 save percentage; Goalie Fred Roufs – 109 SOG/101 saves = .927 save percentage

COUGARS: Team – 51 goals scored/90 goals scored against

Individual – Braydon Jones – 18 points (15 goals/3 assists); Avery Dean – 12 points (3 goals/9 assists); Caleb Kranzler – 12 points (4 goals/8 assists); Goalie Matthew Feiock – 520 SOG/446 saves = .858 save percentage; Goalie Caiden Frericks – 99 SOG/84 saves = .848 save percentage


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