It took 42 years, but Cotter hockey completed its first full season as an independent team since 1980.
The team was formed and practiced last year, but due to the pandemic, this was its first full season. The team had to deal with having low numbers as a start-up, delays caused by the pandemic, and a number of rescheduled games against new opponents. Despite the bumps and bruises of getting a new program off the ground the players came away with a lot of positive experiences from the season.
Wesylee Kohner, an junior, was glad to be a part of the first year since the 80s of playing hockey for Cotter, as last year the team spent practicing with some scrimmages. “Our first win is a moment that stands out as a highlight for me, on both the varsity and jv level,” Kohner said.
Cotter defeated Dodge County JV 5-2 and defeated Worthington varsity 4-3 both in home games at the outdoor sheet at Bud King Arena.
Cotter was knocked out of the MSHSL playoff by La Crescent in the first round.
“One moment I won’t forget is when Thomas Peter (a junior) scored our first goal in over 40 years,” Noah Lange, also a junior, said. “I also really enjoyed the team dinners, the coaches, and getting to know the team and be part of building a community,” Lange added.
Thomas remembers the season for being challenging, due to the numbers on the team, but he thought everyone improved. “At one point due to a bunch of factors we only had 10 skaters, so we would be really tired,” Peter said.
Peter was glad when Arron Romance and Sawyar Kehren, both sophomores who are from outside of Winona, joined the team to bring much needed depth.
Ashur Rouleau, a solid defenseman and the team’s only senior, was glad about the growth that happened and the growth to come. “The team really had to battled through a lot of stuff with numbers and injuries, but we worked though it as a team, and that led to a great second half of the season,” Rouleau said.
“Getting to play an outdoor game right on the Mississippi River and winning at home was a really cool experience,” Romance said.
The team’s head coach is Marty Raymond, he was assisted by Bob Anacabe and Don Cada. The players voiced mutual appreciation for the coaching staff and all the work they have put in with the team over the last two years.
“Due to the respect that the coaches give out to all of us, I have deep respect for them,” Rouleau said.
“I really liked all the hands-on, individual and team coaching that happened on the ice,” Romance said.
While the coaches had to deal with the low numbers, illnesses, and scheduling issues that were mentioned earlier, they, too, took away some positive things from the year.
“The past two years gave us lots of time to work on improving out quality of play and increasing our hockey IQ, we good improvement and as a group,”Coach Raymond said. He noted that Thomas Peter and Garret Nelson, in particular, showed great improvement over the course of the season.
“One highlight was winning games, which we needed to do, though I don’t like to celebrate a win too much, for you can always improve,” Raymond added.
Coach Raymond thought the team developed a “competitive nature, a never quit attitude” and is encourage by the number of younger kids and families in the Winona hockey program.
“I think the future is bright, there’s a lot of good kids in the younger level, we just need to close the numbers gap to become more competitive,” Raymond said.
Coach Raymond also complimented the lone senior on the team. “Ashur is a great leader and great captain. which wasn’t easy. He will do great things in life because he pursues excellence.”