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Paynesville Press - December 4, 2002

River Lakes Stars aim for winning season

By Michael Jacobson

The River Lakes Stars boys' hockey team - which started its season on Tuesday, Dec. 3, against Becker - faces a new challenge this winter.

For the first time, the cooperative program - with participating schools Albany, New London-Spicer, Paynesville, St. John's Prep, and Rocori - will play a half schedule in the Central Lakes Conference, against teams from Alexandria, Brainerd, Little Falls, St. Cloud Apollo, St. Cloud Tech, and Willmar.

"The biggest reason we did it was because we wanted to challenge our kids," said head coach Kevin Mooney, whose team finished 5-16-1 last year.

In the last three years, the Stars have had an easier regular season schedule, but when playoffs rolled around they faced stiff competition: Roseau once and Moorhead twice. Each time, this recipe resulted in a lopsided loss.

If the Stars ever hope to be competitive with the Roseaus and Moorheads of the state, they need to face better competition and learn to play the game at a faster pace, said Mooney, starting at the youth level. That's why, for now, the Stars will only play a half schedule against the teams from the Central Lakes Conference.

Even with some tougher teams on the schedule, Mooney hopes to improve the team's record from a year ago. "Our goal is to finish .500 or better," he said. "We think with our team and our schedule we can do that."

The Stars return their top three scorers - senior center Kyle Curran of Rocori, junior wing Mike Anderson of New London-Spicer, and sophomore wing Andy Schramel of Rocori - as well as starting goalie - junior Blake Theisen of Rocori.

Mooney plans to spread his top scorers on this top two lines. Curran will center junior Blake Cabalka of St. John's Prep and Ryan Weber, a sophomore from Paynesville at St. John's Prep. Chris Knauss, a junior from Rocori, will center Anderson and Schramel.

Curran and Anderson are team captains this year, with Theisen an alternate captain.

Paynesville has five players on the team this year: senior goalie Justin Hartfiel, sophomore forward Kevin Hartmann, sophomore forward Paul Heim, sophomore defenseman Michael Mueller, and sophomore forward Bo Sjoberg. Hartfiel, who should back up Theisen, is the only one returning to the Stars. Mooney said Mueller should see time as a varsity defenseman, Sjoberg should see time on the fourth line, and Hartmann and Heim should play primarily on the junior varsity.

The Stars will host Sartell on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the River Lakes Arena in Richmond, and they will host St. Michael-Albertville on Tuesday, Dec. 10, also at 7:30 p.m. at the River Lakes Arena in Richmond.

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