Dodge County boys hockey heading to Class A
Since being founded, the Dodge County boys and girls hockey programs have been miscast at the high school level. Due to the seven schools (Kasson-Mantorville, Byron, Triton, Pine Island, Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Hayfield and Blooming Prairie) that comprise the Dodge County program, the sum of half the schools’ enrollment has pushed them over the Class A threshold.
Because of that, the Wildcats have had to do battle with larger schools in Class AA. While both teams have done an admirable job of competing against Section 1AA powers such as Lakeville North and South and the Rochester teams, success has been hard to find and because of that, it has become difficult to not only entice young athletes to play hockey, but stick with it.
That process led to an appeals battle that Dodge County has been fighting for years and with the latest round of section realignment, last week, both teams received initial good news that they had won their appeal and will be moving to Class A beginning with the 2019-20 season.
When the final groupings were released just a couple days later, both teams noticed an issue as they boys team had been dropped down to Class A, but the girls team remained in Class AA.
“We are very disappointed in their decision,” Dodge County girls head coach Jeremy Gunderson said. “There is nowhere that says that wins and losses should be a factor, so we are trying to make a push for us to get back in Class A.”
The issue at hand is the lack of success the boys program has had dealing with the larger teams while the girls have seen a limited level of success. This past season was
the first sub-.500 season for the girls program since 2007-08, but most of that has to do with a grueling schedule that sees the Wildcats play some of the top teams in the state. Dodge County has also reached the Section 1AA championship game four times during that time frame, which has likely created feedback with their desire to move to Class A.
By comparison, the boys team hasn’t had a winning season since 2009-10 and has just five playoff wins since the 2005-06 season and has
never advanced to the section championship game.
“Moving our program to class A gives us an opportunity to be more competitive in post season play and allows us to continue scheduling other class A teams during the regular season.” Dodge County boys hockey head coach Nick Worden said of the move.
“I believe if our program can have some success we will do a much better job attracting more kids to play and stick with hockey in our communities. “Such a ruling is interesting considering that the competition that Dodge County sees at the youth level is primary Class A teams such as Red Wing, Austin and Northfield. As for now, the girls team is exploring avenues to try and get the decision reversed.