Stars hockey

Ryan Dalzell, the long-time assistant coach of the Somerset boys hockey team, has become the new varsity coach for the Western Wisconsin Stars varsity girls hockey team.

Dan Gilkerson is starting his 18th season as Somerset’s boys coach and Dalzell has been by his side in each of those seasons, after they started out as assistant coaches in the Spartan program. Dalzell and Gilkerson are both Somerset High School graduates and former Spartan skaters.

Dalzell and Gilkerson will continue to coach together. With the Stars and the Somerset boys frequently practicing back-to-back, Dalzell plans to help with the boys team when time allows and Gilkerson will assist with the girls team as time allows. Brian Ducklow and Mark Abbott will also serve as assistant coaches on the girls team.

Dalzell has also coached several summer select teams. Last summer, he led the effort to get a girls summer program started, the St. Croix Selects. He has been involved in coaching in the girls program for several years, coaching his daughters who this year will be at the U12 and U10 levels.

The Stars varsity team is coming off a season where it finished 17-7 under coach Bob Huerta. Huerta stepped down after the season so he could follow the career of his daughter, Erin, who is playing hockey and soccer at St. Norbert’s College in Green Bay. Erin was a co-Player of the Year in the Big Rivers Conference last season.

The Stars are a cooperative team, consisting of girls from New Richmond, Somerset, Amery, Osceola and St. Croix Falls. This year’s Stars team has 26 girls on the roster, with a varsity schedule of 24 games and a junior varsity schedule of 17 games.

Dalzell said the goal of the coaching staff at the start of the season is to build a trust with the players. He said the systems the Stars will run this season will be “personnel dependent.”

“I want to play a high-tempo, fast-paced style with a lot of hard work,” Dalzell said. He envisions the scoring to come from a number of sources as the coaches try to build balanced lines. With a returning goaltender and three of the top members of the defense returning, he said the plan is to make the Stars a strong defensive team.

The Stars will need to get quickly because their schedule picks up as early as possible. They begin conference games on Wednesday, Nov. 23, when they face the St. Croix Valley Fusion at Baldwin.

This year’s Stars will be a younger team, with just two seniors, Bryn Connors and Grace Stock, on their roster. Dalzell said a number of girls will be counted upon to step up into bigger roles this season.

“All the teams in the Big Rivers Conference are going to be solid,” Dalzell said. He said the schedule also includes several new strong non-conference opponents.

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