Superior boys hockey coach Jason Kalin was talking with his wife, Christa, earlier in the week about something he had to get done the next day.
“I was like, ‘You never told me this?’” Jason Kalin said.
But alas, Kalin was outnumbered.
“Both my son (Carter) and my wife said, ‘Yes, we did. When you were eating lunch we told you this.’ I had no clue. But that’s all my mind is doing right now. I’m thinking about workouts, I’m thinking about practice. We don’t even have enough jerseys for our kids.
“Oh man, I’ve been swimming in hockey here for the last couple days, and I absolutely love it.”
Kalin’s wife, overhearing the conversation, then jokingly added, “You’ve lost your mind.”
Yes, things have gone crazy in Superior in recent days with excitement for the season to start in this era of uncertainty due to COVID-19. The Spartans will open the season 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5, at home against Eau Claire North — a season that appeared lost suddenly found.
“This season means a lot, especially considering this will most likely be my last season ever playing,” said senior goalie Jamin Durfee. “It sucks that the season has been shortened, but I’m just glad we get to have a hockey season.”
The Spartans will be making up for lost time with a condensed schedule featuring three or four games a week.
“It’s about creating a season for these boys who have missed so much already,” Kalin said. “We had a cancellation already (Hayward), but we filled it.”
Superior will rely heavily on Durfee, especially early in the season until the Spartans develop a scoring punch up front.
“He’s a gamer,” Kalin said. “We had a month where our boys were playing Junior Gold together, and he did an awesome job, saw a lot of pucks. He’s going to anchor us.”
Durfee said he is ready to carry the load.
“I remember back to Bantam As, I was the only goalie on the A team, and that was very similar to this schedule,” Durfee said. “It’ll be kind of hectic, but I can handle it.”
Durfee logged 1,297 minutes last season — all but 51 of the team’s minutes — posting a 3.72 goals-against average and 87.5 save percentage for a team that went 9-16-1.
Superior, however, lost 75% of its scoring from last season.
Kalin called Andrew Scharte, who had seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points last season, a wily forward who is sneaky good. He is joined by fellow senior winger Ethan Welch, a speedster.
George Hansen (2-6—8) and Mason Stenberg (0-2—2), two of the top players from a strong junior class, give the Spartans a pair of quality defensemen. Hansen is the younger brother of last year’s leading scorer Gunnar Hansen (22-16—38), now playing baseball at North Iowa Area Community College.
Freshman Lucas Williams and sophomore defenseman Trevor Anderson are among the Spartans’ up-and-comers.
The Spartans just started practicing Dec. 21.
“Our biggest thing right now is fitness,” Kalin said. “We’re really out of shape, and we have a very short time to get us into game shape. We had some parents who did a great job with our Junior Gold program in getting them some ice time, but even with that, they’re still kind of couch potato kids right now.”
Durfee, who only played golf in the spring and didn’t miss out on a fall sport, said he feels for his hockey teammates who also play football and didn’t get to play under the Friday night lights. He said his football-playing friends remain hopeful for the spring.
“It was kind of heartbreaking. I feel for them,” Durfee said. “Just a few weeks ago, my other senior friend on the team (Welch) and I were talking if we were even going to have a hockey season. We were going to play Junior Gold if we didn’t have a high school (season), but it wouldn’t be the same. We didn’t know.”
Now, they do.
Kalin, who is going into his 20th season as the Spartans’ head coach, said every year he has been forced to cut players. Not this year — not this time.
“We just kept everybody,” Kalin said. “I just wanted the kids to be able to do this. We’ve got some kids on JV who have a really hard time skating, but they’re out there. They’re doing something, and in this day and age, that’s all I care about.”
Spartans girls look to be improved
Doug Trentor takes over as head coach for Marc Franta after serving the previous three years as assistant coach.
Trentor will be assisted by Ronald Praet Jr., in his first year as an assistant coach, and Kevin Mudrak, in his third year as goalie coach.
“I’m just glad we’re getting started,” Trentor said. “A week or two ago, I was a little pessimistic about even having a season.”
Superior will open the season against Hayward-Ashland 7 p.m. Jan 5 in Hayward.
Superior went 4-20 last season but returns the bulk of last year’s team as well as several young players who will contribute.
Senior forward Brooklyn Burger is back after leading the Spartans with 23 points on eight goals and 15 assists, as does second-leading point getter Madelyn Franta (11-8—19), a sophomore forward.
Seniors Arika Trentor (8-4—12), the coach’s daughter, and Jillian Reuille (2-1—3) are also back, as is junior defenseman Callie Holmlund (1-5—6).
“We’re excited to be back on the ice despite it being a shortened season,” coach Trentor said. “The girls have followed through with the voluntary offseason workout program and it showed the first day of practice. The energy, attention to detail and willingness to learn are clearly apparent.”
The Superior School Board met in mid-December and agreed to allow the Spartans to start practicing on Dec. 21, with players wearing masks.
“They really felt the need to get these kids going — all winter sports, get them out there, get them playing, get them competing, get them practicing, so much for sitting home, let’s get these kids going.”
That created a scramble, a whirlwind of activity as the Spartans had to revamp their schedule.
“With Minnesota delayed, now we can’t play them, so we kind of had to rob Peter to pay Paul,” Trentor said. “We moved the Wisconsin opponents up, Minnesota opponents up. It was kind of a nightmare there for a few days.”
A nightmare yes, and this is an oxymoron, but a good nightmare. Like Kalin, Trentor and his coaching staff are so excited, so happy for their players to finally take the ice, it’s a good kind of busy.
“That’s exactly it,” Trentor said. “You couldn’t say it any better. If the circumstances were different, I’d be complaining, 'I’m too busy,' but this is a different kind of busy. It’s all positive energy. You can just feel it throughout the ice rink. The girls are just flying in the event we’ll quit playing.”