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Heath Hotzler column: Youthful Cobbers struggling

With a young team of inexperienced players, Concordia men's hockey coach Steve Baumgartner figured it might take some time to get on the right track.

With a young team of inexperienced players, Concordia men's hockey coach Steve Baumgartner figured it might take some time to get on the right track.

Was he ever right.

The Cobbers, who finished 13-11-2 and earned the fifth and final Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoff spot last year, has gone just 1-9 to open the season.

Concordia lost nine straight after winning the season opener in November.

It's the longest losing streak for the Cobbers since they dropped 16 in a row in 1995-96.

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Several factors are to blame for the slow start.

First, the Cobbers have played one of the toughest nonconference schedules in team history.

Wisconsin-River Falls, Wisconsin-Superior, Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Eau Claire were each ranked in the top 25 when they defeated Concordia.

Next, the youthful Cobbers, first in Division III in penalty minutes, have had a hard time keeping their emotions in check.

"Emotionally, we've been on a roller coaster," Baumgartner said.

Then there's the inexperience factor.

The Cobbers have three freshman and a sophomore as their top six defensemen. The team also has just six upperclassmen on the front line.

Things won't get any easier as the season progresses, either.

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After a two-game series against Augsburg at the Moorhead Sports Center, Concordia is scheduled to play nine of its next 11 on the road.

Still, Baumgartner isn't worried.

"If our work ethic keeps improving the way it has," he said. "We're going to be all right. It's been kind of a learning experience. But we're going to have to get some wins soon."

Junior forward Matt Hansen leads the Cobbers with six goals and two assists.

Senior goaltender Ryan Gill, a transfer from Division III power St. Norbert, has allowed 3.99 goals per game.

Elliott chosen for Hula Bowl

St. John's receiver Blake Elliott was selected to participate in the Hula Bowl college football all-star game Jan. 17 in Maui.

Elliott, a senior who won the Gagliardi Trophy as the nation's top NCAA Division III player, finished the season with 117 receptions for 1,319 yards and 13 touchdowns.

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The Johnnies defeated Mount Union 24-6 for the Division III national title.

St. John's coach John Gagliardi, the winningest coach in the history of college football, will also be an assistant coach on Elliott's Aina team.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel will be the head coach of Aina. Ralph Friedgen of Maryland will coach the Kai team.

The Hula Bowl is scheduled to be televised on ESPN at 7 p.m.

Readers can reach Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562 or hhotzler@forumcomm.com

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