If there’s a hockey season, Middleton believes it can shine

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Sean Ruhly will be a key contributor to Middleton’s hockey team — if there’s a season./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

There are no promises.

No guarantees.

So Middleton hockey coach Dan Truehl is searching for four-leaf clovers and stockpiling horseshoes — anything to give the Cardinals some luck.

Public Health Madison & Dane County issued Emergency Order #10 on Nov. 17, which prohibits indoor gatherings of any size. That order ended on Dec. 16, and Truehl was optimistic that at that point, his team could begin doing socially-distanced workouts again.

If the Cardinals showed the ability to do that successfully, perhaps they could eventually have some type of season.

“I’m still hopeful that we’ll have a season in some form or fashion,” said Truehl, who’s in his first year as Middleton’s head coach. “With a new coaching staff in place, any time with the players would allow us to install systems, emphasize our core values, and most importantly, build the culture that we want this program to have. There are other alternatives currently in place for the players to get some ice time and stay in shape, but nothing can replace time with our coaching staff.”

Truehl was named Middleton’s coach on April 30, and admits the months since have been frustrating.

With sports at Middleton High School shut down due to COVID-19, Truehl didn't have offseason contact days with his team. Most teams across the state then began practicing on Nov. 16 and playing games in late November.

The entire time, Middleton was stuck on the sidelines.

“I’m not going to lie to you, this isn’t how I saw my first year as the head coach at MHS going,” Truehl said. “We’ve had to be nimble, we’ve had to be patient, and we’ve had to be smart about safety. More than anything I miss interacting with the players.

“We have incredible kids in this program, and they’ve been through hell. The crazy thing is that they’ve been more positive, poised, and proactive than most adults that I know and I’m so proud of them for that. Who knows what will happen in the next few months, but we’re choosing to be optimistic and ready to go if, and when, we’re able to do so safely.”

If the Cardinals do in fact have a season, they could be one of the area’s surprise teams.

Middleton went 14-10 last year, then defeated Tomah/Sparta in its playoff opener. But the Cardinals were stripped of their playoff win — and all of their victories — for using an ineligible player throughout the season.

The Cardinals were immediately tossed from the postseason. And the scandal eventually led to MHS and coach Steffon Walby agreeing to “part ways.”

Middleton would bring back a solid nucleus from that team, a group excited to get a fresh start under Truehl.

Among the key returnees would be Jack Baltes, who scored seven goals, had seven assists and averaged 0.58 points per game a year ago.

“Jack has the most varsity games played amongst the returners,” Truehl said. “He brings leadership and hockey sense that is infectious within our locker room.”

Sophomore Garrett Ballweg had four goals and seven assists last season and averaged 0.46 points per game.

“Garrett had an excellent freshman year last year,” Truehl said. “We’ll be looking for him to continue to develop and become a leader on the team.” 

Forward Spencer Kalscheur had four goals, seven assists and averaged 0.50 points per game a year ago.

“Spencer is a very creative and gifted forward,” Truehl said. “We’ll lean heavily on him to create plays and put points on the scoresheet.”

Jonathan Bakken (one goal, one assist) and Jakob Covey (two assists) are two more key returnees.

“JB is a physical presence with a heavy shot,” Truehl said of Bakken. “He brings the size and grit that our team will need against the top teams in our conference. 

“Jake is an energetic and physical defenseman who looks to join the play and help in the offensive zone. We’ll be looking for him to be a leader for our younger defensemen.”

Goalie Connor Faucher went 3-1 last year with a 2.0 goals against average and an .881 save percentage.

“Connor is an athletic and competitive goaltender,” Truehl said. “We’ll look for him to play well early as we develop and acclimate some of the younger skaters.”

Forwards Ethan Lam, Sean Ruhly and Ben Strasser, along with defenseman Ryan Inman will also play key roles.

“Ryan is a skilled defender that sees the ice very well,” Truehl said. “He’ll be working with Jake to bring along the rest of the younger defensive group. Ethan is an offensive sparkplug. He sees the ice well and we’ll look for him to continue to develop from his solid freshman season last year.

“Sean is a strong leader and offensive producer for us. He will be a calming presence and role model for all the underclassmen. Ben is an experienced and talented forward in our locker room. We’ll need him to provide not only leadership, but offensive output to spark our team.”

Truehl is also excited about several newcomers that will be asked to help replace a 13-person senior class.

“This year’s team has big shoes to fill and we’ll need our newcomers and underclassmen to provide production and leadership to keep this program going in the right direction,” he said. “We have a lot of exciting and talented young players and it should be a lot of fun to watch their development.”

Truehl and the Cardinals are ready to start a new chapter of Middleton hockey.

Now, they just hope they’re given a chance to begin a fresh novel.

“This year’s team has a strong leadership presence from our upperclassmen that will allow us to ‘reload’ rather than ‘rebuild,’ ” he said. “We definitely have more forwards returning so I’ll expect them to carry the load as we develop a new group of defensemen. We also have an excellent goaltending room … and we’ll expect a lot out of them.”

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