After a strenuous and very successful high school season, one would think Will Hammer would be looking for a little R & R right now.
Instead, the St. Cloud Cathedral senior has been practicing daily with junior hockey’s Aberdeen (S.D.) Wings of the North American Hockey League.
“I’m having a good time,” Hammer said.
Hammer helped lead Cathedral to a fourth-place finish at the state Class A tournament in St. Paul.
Aberdeen head coach Travis Winter said he was on the phone with Hammer right away. Hammer was on his way to northeastern South Dakota by early the next morning.
He hasn’t played yet and may not. Because it’s so late in the regular season, Hammer won’t be eligible for the playoffs. The Wings have four games left.
“It’s a good experience for him either way,” said Winter, a St. Cloud Tech and Bemidji State graduate. “It’s such a different level of hockey, that it’s really good for him to get some exposure to it and get a leg up for next year.”
Hammer is working on his advanced-placement classes at Cathedral long distance and via the Internet.
Hammer also has some buddies on the team.
Winter isn’t the only St. Cloud connection in Aberdeen, which is three points out of first place in its division.
Also playing for the Wings is Austin Swingle, a forward and former Cathedral teammate of Hammer’s, and Matt Brettigen, a defenseman who would be a senior at St. Cloud Tech this year.
“We’ve got all the St. Cloud boys together,” Hammer quipped.
Swingle and Brettigen are roommates. Hammer is staying with another family. He is heading back to Minnesota later this week to prepare for the Great Eight All-Star series, which features the top seniors in the state. It takes place this weekend at Wakota Arena in South St. Paul.
Hammer is seeking a Division I scholarship, which is why he is in Aberdeen, skating daily, working out and lifting weights instead of on a beach somewhere.
Cathedral head coach Eric Johnson said Hammer has received interest from St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota.
Hammer also has two more years of junior hockey eligibility.
“It’s definitely nice to see that next level and where I’m at,” Hammer said of the Wings. “It’s good for me to get one the ice.
“It’s another step in my career.”
St. Cloud Tech’s Andy Foley, Upsala’s Christian Pekarek and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa’s Brian Goodwin have all been selected to play in the annual Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Series.
The teams play Friday, March 28 at St. Cloud State’s Halenbeck Hall. There are four teams and 40 players. Foley is on a team with Minneapolis DeLaSalle’s Reid Travis, who has signed with Stanford.
Coaching one of the teams is Upsala’s Vern Capelle and Joey Fuchs. Also coaching a team is Chisholm head coach Bob McDonald and his son, Hibbing head coach Joel McDonald. Joel McDonald is a former SCSU star.
While no area teams qualified for this week’s state girls basketball tournament, there is at least one area connection. Browerville head coach Matt Middendorf is a Sauk Centre graduate.
Middendorf helped lead the Tigers (23-5) to the state Class A quarterfinals against top-seeded and defending state champion Minneota (30-1) at 11 a.m. Thursday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
“We’re really walking into a hornet’s nest,” said Middendorf, who also coaches Browerville’s baseball team and plays shortstop for the Elrosa Saints of the Stearns County League. “This will be a good stepping stone and a good learning experience for our very young team.”
Browerville starts four sophomores and a freshman. Four players average in double figures in scoring. One averages 8 points per game.
“Our balance is our strength,” said Middendorf, a 2007 Bemidji State graduate. “All of our starters basically have been starting since eighth grade. We took our lumps for a while. But their hard work is paying off.”
* Former St. Cloud Tech star Luke Zwiener is playing tennis at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Zwiener, a freshman, is 5-0 as a doubles player for the Blugolds, who are 6-5.
* Erin and Jenna Januschka just wrapped up successful seasons on the Concordia-Moorhead women’s basketball team. Erin, a 6-foot-1 junior, averaged 8.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game for the Cobbers, who were 21-6. Jenna, a 6-0 freshman, averaged 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in 16 games for Concordia.
* Roger Mischke, who writes the Central Minnesota Mat Rat report for The Guillotine, had some interesting wrestling stats:
* There were 25 state qualifiers and 12 state place winners from the Granite Ridge Conference. The only state champion was Zimmerman junior Austin May at 182 pounds.
Foley’s Mitch Struffert took second at 195, as did the Falcons’ CarterNielsen at 152.
* The Central Lakes Conference had 29 state qualifiers and five state place finishers. There was one state champion: Alexandria’s Justin Cumberbatch at 195. Sartell’s Rylee Molitor was second at 106.
* The West Central Conference had 30 state qualifiers and eight state place finishers, though no state champions.
* The Central Minnesota Conference had 22 state qualifiers and eight state place winners, including state champion Quinten Berres of Kimball at 132. The Cubs’ Austin Schiefelbein was second at 220 and Pierz’s Kolten Eischens was second at 145. Rockford’s Ty Griffin was second at 132.
* The Park Region Conference had 29 state qualifiers and nine state place winners, including state champ Mitch Lange of Royalton/Upsala at 160.