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North Shore Storm Boys Hockey Senior Class: From Diverse Paths to the Perfect Storm

Though each batch of seniors that play for the North Shore Storm boys hock­ey team is special in their own way, this year’s brought a new kind of era to the area. “What makes this season’s seniors really unique is the fact that they were, at one point, having to play against each oth­er,” said Head Coach Shawn Lundgren. “And the fact that go­ing into high school they were able to play together.”

Despite somewhat untraditional circum­stances, the players from Two Harbors and Silver Bay gelled quickly. “They get along so well and they’re good leaders,” said Coach Lundgren.

#33 Captain Zach Bentler, who served as a goalie on the team, confirmed. “We’re a pretty tight knit group,” he said.

In his five years as a coach for the team, Lundgren has seen a shift in the com­mitment to the game of the young ath­letes. “These kids are more willing to put in the extra work to im­prove and get better,” he said, speaking to how many players are traveling to Duluth twice a week to prac­tice between seasons. “I think putting in that extra time and effort, they are rewarded with having a more successful season than what the Storm has seen in the past.”

The coach also credits the comradery of the entire team as contrib­uting to their success­es this year. According to him, they under­stand the importance of playing together and have good chem­istry within the locker room.

I’ve seen firsthand how supportive this team is of each other as I’ve attended games throughout the sea­son. All wins within a game (goals, saves, breakaways) are cel­ebrated and all losses (bad passes, penalties, missed opportunities) are forgiven. “I think wins and losses are the reflection of doing a lot of things right,” said Coach Lundgren.

Also doing a lot of things right are the six seniors who have been good leaders, good mentors, good citizens, and good stu­dents throughout their high school years.

“There are definite­ly some personali­ties within our senior class,” Coach Lund­gren said. “Our cap­tains and our leaders this year were Jake Stadler and Zach Bentler and they both lead by example both on and off the ice.”

Both are also excellent students. Bentler has signed with the Uni­versity of Minnesota Duluth to play foot­ball. (Go Bulldogs!) #29 Jake Stadler will be headed to school in Nebraska and will fo­cus on his other favor­ite sport, golf.

#9 Braylen Hoff is also planning to pursue another of his favor­ite sports. He will be playing baseball along with fellow senior #18 Andrew Wehrman. His coach describes Hoff as a high energy guy. “He creates some cha­os on the ice and cre­ates excitement for his teammates,” he said.

Wehrman also brought a lot of energy to the team. “I’d love to have him around for a cou­ple more years just be­cause of the energy he brought. He got along with everybody. He was really passionate about playing and that kind of attitude is con­tagious.”

Though newer to the team, the coach re­ported #31 Kip Jones was welcomed with open arms. “I take my hat off to him and all the kudos in regards to having to come to a place where he didn’t really know anybody. At that point, it’s never easy to fit in, but the kids really loved him,” Coach Lundgren said. “Just being around and having courage to come out and play speaks volumes to him as a person.”

Yet another leader on the team, #4 Tucker Cook, always showed up for his teammates. “He knew what his responsibilities were and lead by example. He worked hard. Just a really, really good per­son,” said the coach.

Cook is headed to Wi­nona State University for marketing and mar­keting management. When I spoke with him, he expressed a lot of gratitude towards his parents. “They’ve had to put up with a lot of traveling and ho­tels,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m most appreciative for.”

Bentler, too, spoke of a great support system. On top of the players who skated beside him, he wanted to thank his parents, the coaches, and his friends.

“I’m truly going to miss that senior class. They are all just great people,” said the coach. “They make it fun coming to the rink. It’s a joy to have seen them grow and we’re excited as they take on new challenges and chapters in their life.”

They’ll miss him, too, along with the as­sistant coaches Tom Johnson and Andy Fel­lows. “Coach Johnson helped me through a lot of defensive work,” said Cook. “Coach Fellows is so fun to have around. He’s a good locker room presence.”

As for Head Coach Lundgren, Cook took a pause before respond­ing to my ‘tell me a lit­tle about your coaches’ query. “I don’t even know what to say. He’s honestly one of my favorite coaches I’ve had. He’s an all-around great guy. We joke around a lot,” he said. “I’m going to miss playing for him.”

When asked what else they would miss the most about play­ing with the Storm, both Bentler and Cook pointed to the bus rides, the prac­tices, and the time in the locker room. “I’ll miss bonding with them,” Bentler said of the team. For Cook, he said he’ll miss the games, but according to him, “The times off the ice are some of the best.”

“The biggest thing is that they really care about each other, and they are friends. They are willing to show up, compete and battle for each other. Ultimately, at the end of the day, they form everlasting friendships and memories playing together,” said Coach Lundgren. “I truly ap­preciate everything they brought to this program.”

The Storm’s last game was on February 20th during the Class 1A Section 7 quarterfi­nals. The team was up against the Proctor Rails and were unable to advance. There have been a lot of ups and downs this season, but, in the end, the success­ the seniors have had on this team will have a ripple effect on the generations that follow them.

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