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Rule changes will effect Packer boys hockey team

With new rules that enforce tougher penalties for illegal checking, the Austin boys hockey team will have to look at the game a little differently from now on.

The rules, which are currently in affect, were announced after Jack Jablonski, a Benilde-St Margaret’s School student, severed his spinal cord when he went head first into the boards after being checked in a December game. He is not expected to walk a again.

Marcus Stoulil, a junior forward on the Austin boys hockey team, thinks the rules will have a major effect on the game. He said he noticed that play was less physical on the first game the Packers played after Jabolnki’s injury.

“It’s going to change the game in a big way,” Stoulil said. “Puck handling and skating will be more important than hitting. If a guy is by the boards and he makes a wrong move and you’re not ready for it, you could be in the box. You have to stay focused and be cautious.”

Austin head coach Tim Peterson doesn’t think the rules will have a huge effect on his team and he said the changes are good for safety of the players.

“We talked with our players about the rule changes,” Peterson said. “But we have not taken many of these types of penalties prior to the rule change so we did not make any adjustments to the way we practice.”

Jablonski’s injury has probably had an effect on all hockey players in Minnesota, but Stoulil, who suffered a knee inury during football season, said he tries to not think about possible injuries while playing.

“For everybody it’s in the back of our mind, but we try not to think about it too much,” he said. “When you think too much, you make a mistake.”

The MSHSL announced recently that checking from behind will now be a five-minute major penalty, instead of a two-minute penalty. Boarding, defined as any move that sends a player violently into the boards, will be an automatic five-minute major penalty instead of an optional two- or five-minute penalty.

Contact to the head also becomes an automatic five-minute major penalty, instead of allowing an official to use discretion in choosing between two- or five-minute penalties.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.