With nine freshmen, including a 6-foot-7 behemoth from Sweden, the Saint John’s Johnnies have faith in the future.
That belief has been tested in the early-going, as the Johnnies dropped four-straight contests, three of which were decided by a goal. Senior Mike Wallgren had a team-leading two goals and two assists through four games.
MIAC coaches in their preseason poll tabbed St. John’s for the seventh spot, which would be a step up from last season’s eighth place showing, when the team went 5-9-2 (9-12-4 overall).
The loss of last season’s leading scorer Karl Gilbert (12 goals, 10 assists) and fellow classmate forward Gabriel Harren (7 goals, 11 assists) has been noticeable, especially in the one-goal setbacks to St. Olaf, 3-2, Wisconsin-Superior, 3-2, and St. Scholastica, 4-3.
“We didn’t lose a significant amount on defense, but we did lose good impact guys at forward like Karl Gilbert and Gabriel Harren,” said St. John’s coach Doug Schueller, who’s in his third season. “We’re coping with it by basically getting good freshmen in.
“We’re confident with all of them. There are a few who are going to be very good in this league and, hopefully, an upgrade from what we lost.”
The most intriguing newcomer is Swedish defenseman Axel Ramsgard, who is 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds. The Gothenburg native played Kungalv in the Swedish League, where he played for former NHL netminder Tommy Salo.
Ramsgard, who’s played in all four games, is one of five native Swedes on the roster.
“He’s still skinny, but hopefully in the next four years we put weight on him and, by the end of this, he is a pro prospect,” the Johnnies coach said. “You can’t teach size.”
Recruits closer to home are expected to factor in the team’s offense.
Freshman forward James Saintey rang up 42 points on 20 goals and 22 assists with the NAHL Fairbanks Ice Dogs last season. Another NAHL product, Justin Hochsprung, has good hands and at 6-foot-2 is a potential power forward, while fellow frosh Justin Brausen was the Minnesota Junior Hockey League’s 2008-09 Offensive Player of the Year.
“Hopefully down the road here (Brausen) will be finishing some of his chances and scoring some goals for us,” Schueller said.
In goal, junior Tony Civello will vie with Swedish sophomore Adam Anderrson for the starting job. The pair have shared duties so far, with Civello having an edge with a 2.61 GAA and .905 save percentage.
“Right now, they are pretty much tied for the number one spot,” Schueller said.