Benilde-St. Margaret’s look to capitalize on Elite League success
“Front-loaded” is how Benilde-St. Margaret’s longtime boys hockey coach Ken Pauly describes the schedule facing the reigning Metro West Conference champions, who reached the Section 6AA semifinals while going 15-6-0 during the unusual 2020-21 season.
Not only will the Red Knights be busy during the opening month of the season, playing 11 games in 31 days, but the pedigree of the opponent will shine a light on what should be a high-caliber squad.
BSM opens the season at reigning state champion Hill-Murray Nov. 30 before hosting the Challenge Cup (formerly known as the North-South Challenge) Dec. 3-4 at the rec center. BSM faces Hermantown at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3 before playing Eden Prairie at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4. Hill-Murray takes the place of Brainerd at the Challenge Cup.
The Red Knights also face Cretin-Derham Hall, Wayzata, Maple Grove and Moorhead in December. They close out the month with The Tradition at the Park Dec. 28-30 at the rec center, facing Rogers, Maple Grove and Stillwater.
The week before the opening game, Pauly and the coaching staff are busy. “It’s a combination of trying to get ready for the season but also trying to give kids a fair look [during tryouts],” he said. The number of students trying out is what Pauly considers good, given the number of returning players, which in the past has tampered participation.
Coming into the season, BSM was among the top three programs, with six players competing in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League, including Adam Marshall, Tristan Sarsland and Brady Yakesh.
“Having four defensemen in the Elite League is awfully good and then to have Drew Stewart and Adam Marshall among the leading scorers, we didn’t have that last year.
“It bodes well for the season when you have them there.”
Stewart, a sophomore forward, had 26 points (14 assists) in 17 games this fall, including five points (three assists) in six playoff games. He was 13th in regular-season points.
Marshall finished with 33 points (18 goals) in 20 games, including three game-winners.
Stewart and Marshall teamed up on the Twin Cities Orthopedics, then Elite Red, for the playoffs. Marshall added five points in three playoff games.
Five more players were at the USA Hockey 15s National Camp this summer and most of them were not in the Elite League, either.
“There’s some good, young talent around here,” Pauly said as the future remains promising.
One question coming into the season is goaltending after four-year starter Carson Limesand graduated in 2021 and is now making his way through the junior hockey ranks, intending to compete in college.
BSM has three capable goalies competing, including senior Sammy Schumacher, junior Brennan Chapman and sophomore Mason McElroy.
Schumacher and Chapman served as the JV goalies last season. McElroy is a transfer from Providence Academy.
“It’s wide open after you graduate someone like Carson,” Pauly said of the race for the starting spot. “We have three guys who we think are quite capable. Between those three we think we will have enough juice in them.”
Pauly anticipates someone will emerge as the leader as they progress through preseason scrimmages and practices to win the starting role.
“What I think now might change because until you play someone with a different color jersey on, you just don’t know,” he said. “There is practice and games and when it is game time, ‘Can you hit those balls now?’”
Limesand, now with the Northeast Generals, started the hockey season as the NAHL Goaltender of the Month for September. He was 5-1-0, including the NAHL’s East Division Star of the Week Sept. 6-12. He stopped 218 of 232 shots to post a .940 saves percentage and 2.13 goals-against average.
After nine games, Limesand joined the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL where he was 1-2-0 in four games, making 31 saves.
7 p.m. start unless noted
Nov. 30 at Hill-Murray 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 3 vs. Hermantown 8 p.m. (Challenge Cup)
Dec. 4 vs. Eden Prairie 12:30 p.m. (Challenge Cup)
Dec. 8 at Wayzata
Dec. 10 vs. Moorhead 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 16 at Cretin-Derham Hall 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 18 vs. Holy Family
Dec. 23 vs. Blake
Dec. 28 vs. Rogers noon (The Tradition at the Park Tournament)
Dec. 29 vs. Maple Grove 7:30 p.m. (Tournament)
Dec. 30 vs. Stillwater 7:30 p.m. (Tournament)
Jan. 8 at Edina 8 p.m.
Jan. 11 at Chaska
Jan. 18 vs. St. Thomas Academy
Jan. 22 vs. St. Louis Park
Jan. 25 at Jefferson
Jan. 27 vs. Holy Angels
Jan. 29 at Mahtomedi 2 p.m.
Jan. 31 at Waconia
Feb. 5 at Bloomington Kennedy 3 p.m.
Feb 8 vs. Orono
Feb. 12 vs. Chaska
Jan. 15 vs. Chanhassen
Feb. 17 at Champlin Park
Feb. 19 vs. New Prague