The chip has been firmly placed on the collective shoulders in Hudson, where the Crusaders and what their coach refers to as "the original six" have began to find their way.
Over-looked or simply told they weren't good enough, most of Hudson's roster is made up of a series of castoffs ran astray into the eastern bank of the St. Croix River.
That they've found a chance to play at all is noteworthy.
But now this; a four-point weekend that has them on the verge of climbing out of last place in the Minnesota Division of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
For a franchise that was literally left-for-dead a week before the season started, that is truly remarkable.
"I really have to credit the players," said head coach and general manager Shane Wagner. "We have our six core guys, and we've added some players with good character, and they've found a way to come together. They've learned how to win."
As mentioned, that they've even played this winter is nearly a miracle within itself.
The previous regimen walked away form junior hockey just six days before the regular season was scheduled to begin. Players were told to find a place to play elsewhere, and a town appeared to have its team just disappear.
But a last minute move behind a quickly formed ownership group staved off extinction. Wagner was named head coach on the day of the first game.
At the time, he had 10 total players that hung around to stick it out. Six of those 10 remain, and he's since built the roster with players cut from other teams, or guys he was able to acquire in a trade.
The results, as expected, took some time to materialize. Hudson did win its second game of the season, but that would be their lone victory in September, and there would be just two in October and one in November.
Since the start of December, however, the Crusaders have managed to go 7-8 overall.
That includes this past weekend, when Hudson skated to a 3-2 shootout victory in their Friday night visit to Steele County, and then doubled-up the Minnesota Owls 8-4 back at home Saturday.
Mitch Lidau (Hugo, Minn.) scored both of the Crusaders regulation time goals against the Blades, including the game-tying goal with just 17 seconds to play.
Cacy Wilfer (Fairbanks, Alaska) had 32 saves that night. Matt Goedeke (Ankeny, Iowa) added 32 more the following night vs. the Owls.
Matt O'Dea (Mokena, Ill.) scored four goals and set up another in that game. Brady Peterson (Andover, Minn.) added a goal and three assists.
"It was a huge weekend for us," said Wagner. "We knew it was going to be a rough year at the start, but we kept talking about learning from what we were doing. We've done that, and last weekend was a pretty good example. Our guys worked hard, and they were rewarded for it."
The team would likely be more satisfied if they can make something of their final 10 games, a stretch that begins this weekend when they host the Edina Lakers at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27.
They'd also like to use that time to continue to showcase what they can do. Wagner said he's seen improvement at every facet so far, and said it is goal to get every one of his players a chance to play in college.
They stuck with him, and he's intent on doing the same for them.
"A lot of our players were overlooked, or told they couldn't cut it at this level," Wagner said. "We had a situation where we could take these guys and give them a chance to shine. They've done that. Our goaltending has been unbelievable, and we are getting a lot better in front of them. I want every one of these guys to play college hockey someday, so we are doing everything we can to get them to the next level."
Elsewhere in the in the Minnesota Division of the MnJHL:
Dells Ducks: Jacob Stima (Roscoe, Ill.) had a goal and two assists, and both Layne Martin (Findlay, Ohio) and Brady Hefner (Billings, Mont.) had one of each as the Dells Ducks rebounded from a pair of losses in Rochester to beat the Steele County Blades 4-3 Jan. 20. Johnny Schwarz (Wood Dale, Ill.) also scored in the victory, which was the Ducks 25thof the season.
Edina Lakers: Edina played just once last weekend, but the Lakers turned that opportunity into a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Owls Jan. 18. Ian Thoennes (Duluth, Minn.) scored the game-winner with a power play goal at of the third, Derek McMasters (Austin, Minn.) had a goal and three assists, and Adam McMasters (Austin, Minn.) scored twice and set up another in the win.
Maple Grove Energy: The Energy dropped a one-goal game to first-place Twin Cities in its only game last weekend, falling 4-3 in their Jan. 18 showdown. Vladyslav Makorevych (Kyiv, Ukraine) netted a pair of goals and assisted on another, Sam Terres (New Hope, Minn.) had a goal and an assist, and Brian Anderson (Lino Lakes, Minn.) turned aside 48 saves.
Minnesota Owls: The Owls lost a pair of games this past weekend, but both Jarrett Sachs (North Branch, Minn.) and Vincent Currao (Jackson, N.J.) managed to put a dent in the score sheet. Currao scored five goals in the two games, including a hat trick in Minnesota's 8-4 loss at Hudson Jan. 19. Sachs had two points in that loss, plus a two-goal showing in the Owls' 5-4 defeat to Edina Jan. 18.
Rochester Ice Hawks: Rochester swept a two-game set for the second consecutive weekend with a pair of impressive victories over the Dells Ducks. Nick Gorino (Churchville, N.Y.) scored twice and both Jarrett Pfeiffer (Ypsilanti, Mich.) and Luke Richardson (Sauk Rapids, Minn.) had three points each in a 9-2 win Jan. 18. Corey Grummick (Olympia, Wash.) then posted a 37-save shutout, and a trio of guys each scored once in a 3-0 victory Jan. 19.
SteeleCounty Blades: The Steele County Blades ended up on the wrong-end of two close encounters this past weekend. Adam Carlson (Edina, Minn.) made 28 saves and Jon Stevanovich (Brookfield, Ill.) and Preston Blanek (Edina, Minn.) both scored once in an eventual 3-2 shootout loss vs. Hudson Jan. 18. Blanek scored another goal, and Quest Bain (Anchorage, Alaska.) set up two in a 4-3 loss vs. the Dells Ducks Jan. 20.
Twin Cities Northern Lights: The winning streak reached an even 10 games for the Twin Cities Northern Lights after two more victories this past weekend. Four different players scored once in a 4-3 victory at Maple Grove Jan. 18, and then Nick Kunes (Melrose, Wis.) had a pair of goals, Tyler Teauge (Hesperia, Calif.) a goal and an assists Isaak Tjaden (Northfield, Minn.) 14 saves in a 5-0 shutout of Hudson Jan. 20.
Games this week:
Friday, January 25
Edina Lakers at Twin Cities Northern Lights,
Minnesota Owls at Rochester Ice hawks, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, January 26
SteeleCounty Blades at Edina Lakers,
Sunday, January 27
Maple Grove Energy at Twin Cities Northern Lights,
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