Woodbury youth hockey: 'Hockey town'Last week, Woodbury sent seven boys and girls hockey teams to the Minnesota Hockey state tournaments, which was believed to be the most of any association in the state by Woodbury Area Hockey Club President Pete Stuckert.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
After years of growth, Woodbury is starting to earn the right to call itself “hockey town.”
Last week, Woodbury sent seven boys and girls hockey teams to the Minnesota Hockey state tournaments, which was believed to be the most of any association in the state by Woodbury Area Hockey Club President Pete Stuckert.
“It was really very pleasing to have that kind of representation and to get our club to this point,” said Stuckert, who is in his third year has WAHC President. “It was really nice to see that.”
To reach the state tournament, teams needed to first qualify for their district tournament based on their regular-season record. They then had to win the district tournament to advance to a regional tournament and, at least, reach the championship game to qualify for state. Most teams need to win six to eight games just to get to the state tournament.
“It’s not like the boys or girls high school state tournaments, where you win three games in your section and you’re in state,” Stuckert said. “We’re talking about having to win up to eight games to get to that point. It’s quite an accomplishment for any team to get to state, because of that and because competition gets better and better, obviously, as you get out of your districts into regional play.”
In its seven state tournament appearances, the Woodbury Area Hockey Club claimed one state championship, a second-place finish, two third-place trophies, a fourth-place finish and a consolation championship title.
Stuckert said he hopes Woodbury is becoming one of the top youth associations in the state.
“We’re blessed with a lot of kids and young families in Woodbury and are just starting to hit our stride,” he said. “We have really strong numbers at the mite program. If you build a pyramid you have to have a strong base. We’re seeing a lot of five to eight year olds coming out for our club, which bodes well for our future years.”
This was the first year the WACH called itself the Woodbury Predators instead of the Woodbury Royals. Because the WAHC develops its players for multiple high schools, it formed a development committee in December of 2009 and went through a process to pick a new name and a logo, including an online vote though its website. The Predators logo includes concepts and school colors from Woodbury and East Ridge.
“We not only send kids to Woodbury High School and East Ridge High School, but to schools like Cretin-Derham Hall, Hill-Murray and St. Thomas Academy,” Stuckert said. “We felt it was necessary to go away from the Royals name and logo, because it identified us with just the one high school. With the club providing hockey players to more than just Woodbury we felt it was necessary to do that and we came up with the Predators. I’m really pleased, because I think our kids and parents have really taken ownership of that new logo.”
Stuckert said he was confident both Woodbury and East Ridge could have successful high school teams based on the talent and development out of the WAHC.
Most notably were the amazing numbers of high-end players at the Bantam level, which is 13 to 15 years old and is the final step of youth hockey for the majority of players before moving onto the high school teams.
Woodbury had seven Bantam teams, including three ‘B’ Bantam teams, two of which — B1 White and B1 Royal — played in the state tournament along with the Woodbury ‘A’ Bantams, which finished second in the state this year. Additionally, last year’s Wodbury ‘A’ Bantams won the state championship. The majority of the players from last year’s championship team were in the Woodbury and East Ridge high school programs this past season.
“I think the way our club is set up that we’re developing enough kids to fill both high schools,” Stuckert said. “Obviously, with East Ridge you have a third of the enrollment coming from Cottage Grove and that’s providing some talent to the East Ridge side of things, too.”
Stuckert said there has been discussion about splitting the club in two — for Woodbury hockey and East Ridge — but he said the idea “hasn’t gained a lot of support.”
“Our long-term mission is to keep the club as one and continue to have a good development program for our kids so we’re providing enough talent for both the high school teams,” Stuckert said.
In addition to sending seven teams to state the WACH hosted Minnesota Hockey's Girls 14U “A” state tournament at the Bielenberg Sports Center, from March 18 to 20.
“We had a very successful tournament,” Stuckert said. “It was very well run and we had a lot of people from all over the state come into Woodbury and play at our facility at Bielenberg.”