The Rock County Fury finished third in the Badger Conference last season.
The area’s girls high school co-op hockey team was 6-3-1 in league games and lost only 2-1 to unbeaten and Badger champion Sun Prairie.
With four of its top five scorers returning, including leading scorer Maggy Henschler, the Fury figure to make a run at the top spot this season.
“This core group of players has been together for awhile now and has put in a lot of hard work on and off the ice,” first-year coach Luke Steurer said. “I really believe that hard work will pay off.
“I’ve got 25 girls on the roster, so we’ve got some good depth. And we’ve also added Albany to the co-op this year and that’s going be a good addition to the program.”
Steurer is a 2003 Janesville Craig graduate and played four years for the Janesville Bluebirds. He spent the last four years as the goalie coach for Rock County.
This year’s Fury team has players from Craig, Janesville Parker, Milton, Albany, Clinton, Monroe, Brodhead, Beloit Memorial and Beloit Turner.
The top returning scorers are all seniors at Milton. Henschler led the Fury with 15 goals and eight assists, and will join classmate Ally Burke on the first line. Burke was fourth on the team in scoring last year with six goals and nine assists.
“Maggy is a great leader for this team and a captain, as well,” Steurer said. “She’s a very good all-around player who makes her teammates better.
“Ally is one of the hardest workers we have. Those two work well together on the ice.”
Milton’s Dani Heitsman is the top returning defenseman. The senior was third on the team in scoring with 16 points last year.
“Dani’s a great skater that gives us a physical presence that good teams need,” Steurer said.
“And because she’s been playing together for so long with Maggy and Ally, they seem to know where each other are on the ice.”
Steurer also expects the Knauf sisters, freshman Alyssa and sophomore Haley, from Albany to skate on either the first or second line.
McKaylie Buescher returns in net for the Fury. The Milton senior had a 2.17 goal-against average a year ago and had two shutouts.
“McKaylie did a great job for us last season, and I expect more of the same from her this year,” Steurer said.
Rock County opens the season tonight at Central Wisconsin, the reigning WIAA state champion.