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Brand new bench boss bonanza

The pedigree of coaches taking new jobs sets the upcoming season apart. Mike Randolph ascended to the top spot at St. Thomas Academy after one season as an assistant. The longtime Duluth East coach ranks third in state history with 671 career victories. He resigned his Greyhounds post in June 2021 amid an investigation.

A trio of 1980s state championship skaters with Edina made changes to their coaching careers: Paul Ranheim, chief lieutenant at Eden Prairie for nine seasons, takes charge at Southwest Christian/Richfield. Mike Terwilliger moved from Bloomington Jefferson to Eden Prairie. David Maley is leading Breck.

Speaking of former state champions becoming coaches, Trevor Frischmon takes over at Blaine, where he was an integral part of the Bengals' 2000 Class 2A title team.

Orono switcheroo

Sean Fish led the Spartans girls program to its first Class 1A tournament last winter. Now he'll guide the boys program, armed with important lessons he learned while coaching the girls.

"You have to know how to coach the 'why?' " Fish said. "It made me a better coach in terms of teaching the game. And the boys have responded to that as well. They are sponges."

Fish was a co-captain of Anoka's 2003 Class 2A championship team. He believes his team, which finished 12-14-1 last season, could reach the same perch.

"I've been putting constant belief in them," Fish said. "They have been working hard toward that end goal."

Games to circle

Fish beefed up Orono's nonconference schedule, starting with the season opener against a Northfield team coming off a 20-win season. The teams drop the puck at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Orono. The "Randolph Cup" takes place Saturday, when Duluth East meets St. Thomas Academy at Bloomington Ice Garden. Defending Class 2A champion Andover gets a rematch of last season's state tournament semifinals when the Huskies take on Hill-Murray on Dec. 28 at the Tradition in the Park tournament at the St. Louis Park Rec Center. And Class 1A title game combatants renew pleasantries when defending champion Hermantown visits runner-up Warroad on Jan. 14.

Ratings rise at Rogers

Coming off a breakout season that ended one game short of the Class 2A tournament, Rogers received the No. 8 ranking in the Let's Play Hockey coaches preseason poll. Coach Dave Brown welcomes the high expectations — and the challenge.

"We are the defending Northwest Suburban Conference champs," Brown said. "So, this season, we aren't sneaking up on anybody. Our players are going to have to decide, 'Do we really want to be great every night?' "

Brown said 75% of the Royals roster is either seniors or sophomores. And the groups just started sharing the ice for the first time at recent scrimmages. Brown said his team, one of the state's least penalized, wound up in an unusual amount of scrums. The results proved encouraging. "You saw the seniors and sophomores sticking up for each other," Brown said.

Extreme exodus

At least 35 players traded their high school jerseys for those belonging to various junior teams — more than double last year's total. More than quantity, the list of early departures features 13 players with Division I college commitments. Teams hit particularly hard, those thought to have strong state tournament potential, include Chaska and Moorhead.

Losing players is a challenge for high school advocates going back at least two decades. But this year hits differently.

"I think you get players who make decisions as a group based on other things they are doing in the offseason," former Eagan varsity coach and current coaches association president Mike Taylor said. "Programs always recover. But I feel bad for the kids who thought they had a shot at state this year and then saw their top guys leave."