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After Coaching Swap, Team South Dakota Eyes 14U, 16U Nationals

By Tom Robinson - Special to, 03/14/16, 3:15PM MDT


Team South Dakota has won three Tier II A titles in four years.

Chuck Vockler could not be in two places at one time, so he had to make a decision. After leading Team South Dakota to two straight Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier II National Championships titles on the 16U level, Vockler made the switch to coaching Team South Dakota’s 14U team this year.

“My oldest son [Jake] made the team as an under-ager,” Vockler said. “He’s an ’03 and he made the team. Seeing that nationals are in two different places, I didn’t think I could coach and watch at the same time.”

So Vockler will be coaching — and watching — his son on the 14U team in its Tier II national tournament March 31-April 4 in Charlotte while Aaron Broten and Zach Jurgens lead the 16U team in pursuit of a third straight national title in that tournament in Wayne, New Jersey.

Broten, a teammate of Vockler’s at the University of Minnesota who went on to score more than 500 points in the NHL, was the coach of the 14U team two years ago.

Jurgens has assisted Vockler the last two years.

“Aaron was in Rapid City, but during the season he actually moved back to Minnesota,” Vockler said. “But he’s going to finish out the national tournament with Team South Dakota.”

The players on Team South Dakota get together for a fall schedule and then return to their various teams around the state for league play throughout the winter.

Broten has four players from last year’s national champions on his 16U roster: goalie Alex Robin from Rapid City, Trevor Kuechenmeister from Brookings, Luke Evans from Sioux Falls and Desmond Dean from Aberdeen.

Continuing success on the national level in Tier II could be a challenge for the Team South Dakota program.

“South Dakota has been losing a ton of kids to Triple-A, which is a good thing to us,” Vockler said.

Team South Dakota had to drop its 14U team for one season last winter when the Sioux Falls Junior Stampede started a 14U team.

“We lost about half our guys to the Junior Stampede Tier I program,” Vockler said. “We didn’t have the numbers. Going into this season, we lost a few more than we thought we would, but we were still able to put a team together. Because of the Tier I program, we had to actually dip into the younger ages.”

Jake Vockler is one of four 2003 birth-year players who are playing up his father’s team.

“Our team is real young,” Chuck Vockler said. “We only have six or seven ‘01s. That’s how it all played out this year.”

Both Team South Dakota squads played demanding schedules of about 20 games prior to their league seasons.

“They go back to their hometowns, then after the state tournament we have a weekend of practice and get ready to go to nationals,” Vockler said.

The games tested the Team South Dakota squads.

“We played Team North Dakota and the Junior Stampede, both Tier I programs,” Vockler said. “They beat up on us pretty good.”

Spencer Wedin from Pierre leads the 14U squad.

“He’s a big kid, really fast, with a big shot,” Vockler said.

Robin was the winning goalie in the championship game last year when Team South Dakota won the 16U Tier II Class A title for the third time in four years. It was his third win of the tournament.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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