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Experienced Marlin boys look to return to winning

The Mitchell Marlins boys’ hockey team is banking on the experience gained from the growing pains of last year.

The Marlins finished the 2012-13 season with a record of 3-20 and a seventh-place finish out of eight teams in the South Dakota Amateur Hockey Association after winning the state title the year prior.

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“We had low numbers and were just a young team last year, and now we have some senior leadership that should benefit us,” Marlins coach John Lord said, adding his team will have additional depth with 20 skaters.

Providing senior leadership for the Marlins will be Cole Carlson, Mitch Berens, Alex Thill, Weston Gauger and newcomer Dylan Weitzman.

Thill, the Marlins’ captain, was on track to return as the anchor of the team’s defense, but will be out for up to 10 weeks due to a broken wrist suffered in practice, according to Lord.

The Marlins will need to improve on defense, as last year’s squad allowed 6.43 goals per game and killed off just 71.6 percent of opponent power plays.

“Defensively, we are a year older and a year stronger, which will absolutely help us this year,” Lord said, noting that the loss of Thill will be an obstacle his team will need to overcome.

Last year’s young squad also struggled to find the back of the net on offense. As a team, the Marlins averaged just 1.71 goals per game and converted 8.5 percent of their power play chances.

Mitchell returns its top four scorers from last season, including junior Jacob Cersosimo, who led the Marlins in points with 11 goals and six assists.

Ethan native Jordan Grosdidier and junior Jacob Rice add to an offensive core that Lord expects to lead the way for the Marlins.

Grosdidier, a junior, had 13 points with five goals and eight assists last year, while Rice finished with seven goals and four assists.

“We expect Jordan to be a tough, hard skater for us,” Lord said. “He was an alternate captain last year and he brings a lot of leadership on and off the ice.”

Cersosimo, Rice and Grosdidier will make up a top forward line for the Marlins. Lord also plans to match Berens up with junior forward Dustin Hughes, who the coach said has looked very good in practice so far.

In goal, the Marlins return starter Weston Gauger. The senior made 531 saves on 627 shots for a .847 save percentage last year and picked up all three of the team’s wins. Tate Sutherland backed up Gauger last year and according to Lord, the goalie playing the best will get the bulk of the playing time.

“We should be solid in net with an experienced starter and a talented backup,” Lord said.

The Marlins are not sanctioned by the South Dakota High School Activities Association and are not affiliated with Mitchell High School, where the majority of the players attend school.

“As far as our expectations, we are always looking for a championship, but we’ll have to see how the season plays out,” Lord said.

The Marlins open their season today at the Duluth tournament in Duluth, Minn.