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Prep Boys Hockey Preview | Chi-Hi Cardinals

Prep Boys Hockey Preview: Chi-Hi reloads for tough schedule with new faces, returning veterans

The longtime Cardinal coach returns a blend of experienced talent and encouraging young players this season. Those players will look to come together for a Chi-Hi squad playing a schedule that Parker calls the toughest his program has had since he took over in the 1980s.

Scott Parker mug

Parker

“This is definitely the toughest schedule since I’ve been here,” Parker said. “We are in Verona (to start the season), we’re going to play (Madison) Edgewood and Edgewood’s got one of the best lines in the state. So we’re going to get tested and then we’ve got Hudson coming here. It used to be that we’re a top-25 team and we’d have a top-25 schedule (but) over the last few years with our team’s solid play we are now entering the top-10 schedule and when you do that a lot of things come with that.

“Tougher games means you need to be ready each and every game and that starts next Friday.”

Video highlights from the Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021 prep boys hockey Division 1 sectional final matchup between Chi-Hi and Hudson at Marathon Park Ice Arena in Hudson.

The Cardinals won’t be empty handed for those tough early games as the team brings back 13 letterwinners from a season ago when the program advanced to the Division 1 sectional finals before falling to eventual state champion Hudson 4-2. Three goaltenders with significant varsity experience are back for the Cardinals led by captain Bridger Fixmer. The senior netminder was 2-2 with a 2.16 goals against average and stopped 91 percent of shots faced in an injury-shortened junior season after earning Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association All-State first team honors in 2019-20. Zach LeMay posted a 5-2 mark with a 2.54 GAA and stopped 88 percent of shots in Fixmer’s absence and he too missed time with injury. Landen Rubenzer was 2-4 with a 4.18 GAA and stopped 83 percent of the shots he faced as he found time on the ice amid the injuries in net.

“I think Bridger is excited for this year and so is Zach because both of them were hurt,” Parker said. “Bridger was hurt most of the year last year. Being injured in any sport is no fun because this is what these kids live for and want to do. So Bridger has shown great leadership and looks like he’s back to the form he had before injury and he’s got a C on his chest. Those are the things that are important to get where we want to go.”

Video highlights from the Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021 prep boys hockey Division 1 sectional semifinal matchup between Chi-Hi and Stevens Point at Chippewa Area Ice Arena.

Owen Krista (16 goals, 11 assists), Ben Carlson (seven goals, 14 assists), Trevor Bowe (nine goals, eight assists), Jack Bowe (five goals, seven assists) and Isaac Small (two goals) are the top returning scoring forwards for Cards while Bryer Niblett, Reid Gibbs, Reid Post and Ezra Lindstrom will also factor into the lineup. Drake Bowe (six assists) and Carsten Reeg (one goal, eight assists) are the two most experienced returning defensemen with Isaac Benish, Carter Hoem and Evan Eslinger expected to be among those to help step in for a strong senior class of graduated forwards and defensemen. Four of the team’s expected six defensemen have zero varsity experience. The Cardinals also welcome in a strong freshmen class that Parker believes can help the squad this season and make a big impact sooner than later.

“Right now we are not even close to where we need to be and guys like Bridger and Owen (Krista) and Drake (Bowe) – Drake and Owen are our assistant captains – are going to be the catalysts to get us to where we want to go,” Parker said.

Video highlights from the Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 prep boys hockey Division 1 regional final matchup between Chi-Hi and Wisconsin Rapids at Chippewa Area Ice Arena.

The Cardinals also return their coaching staff intact, something Parker said is important for a team with many new players.

The aforementioned challenging schedule starts with the Big Rivers Conference returning the state champion Raiders and always-tough and senior-heavy Eau Claire Memorial. Those two programs have won at least a share of all but three league titles since 1993. Out of conference the Cardinals open the season against Verona — a team Chi-Hi fell to 1-0 in the 2020 Division 1 state semifinals — and Madison Edgewood before starting the conference season with the Raiders at home on Nov. 30. Chi-Hi faces perrenial state powers Green Bay Notre Dame (Dec. 17) and Wausau West (Dec. 21) before the end of the calendar year and also will play in a star-studded tournament hosted by Notre Dame over the holiday break.

“We’re young in some ways, inexperienced in some ways but we’ve also got some good leadership and veterans to help these guys along,” Parker said.

Strong play in recent years has helped the program re-establish itself as a top-echelon team in the state. The Cards will play a schedule reflecting that and while there is improvement and growth to be had as new faces take on larger roles, the roster has the talent to once again push for plenty of victories.

“We’re not where we want to be,” Parker said. “We don’t have the horses we had over the last couple years but we can get a lot of things done as we work hard for it.”

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