Matt Pohlkamp’s signature on the dotted line continued what has become a tradition of sending Brainerd Warriors boys hockey players to Division I programs.
Pohlkamp, who had verbally committed to Bowling Green State University in November, made it official Wednesday afternoon when he signed an NCAA National Letter of Intent to play for the Falcons next season.
He becomes the sixth Warrior in the last several years to sign with a Division I hockey program. He follows Chris Peluso (Bemidji State), Carl Sneep (Boston College), Ryan Peltoma (Bowling Green), Drew Olson (Minnesota-Duluth) and Josh Archibald (Nebraska-Omaha), all of whom are former Warriors who have played at the Division I level in recent years, or are currently playing.
“I’m pretty pumped,” Pohlkamp said. “I’ve been waiting for this for quite a long time now. It means a lot, it’s a pretty big deal. Drew and Carl and all those guys played hockey in college. It means a lot to be in that group.”
Pohlkamp will join a program that finished 14-25-5 overall this past season, 5-19-4 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Falcons head coach Chris Bergeron said it remains to be seen whether Pohlkamp will play for the Falcons next season or spend a year in Juniors.
“It’s a matter of how good of an opportunity we have for him here, where we feel he would be best suited next year,” Bergeron said. “That’s something we will work through.
“We don’t think bringing him here next year would be a mistake. If we bring him here we feel like he’s ready to come in here and contribute. We’re not going to bring him in if we think he’s going to be in and out of the lineup.”
The same things that appealed to Pohlkamp and his family about Bowling Green appealed to the Falcons’ coaching staff about Pohlkamp. Bowling Green’s goal is to recruit good people who are good students and happen to be good hockey players.
“The biggest challenge when you’re a school in Northwest Ohio recruiting a boy from Brainerd, Minnesota, is how open and honest (is the family) about the process,” Bergeron said. “There are so many options closer geographically. Are they looking for a fit or something close?
“As the weekend went on that we spent together (in November), those are the things that impressed me the most, the fact they were open and honest about it. They were our kind of people.
“From a hockey piece, it’s how Matt shows up to the rink every day and does what he does. He’s a great skater, a strong skater. He put up a bunch of numbers at the high school level. We’ll see if he does that at the Junior and college levels. At the very least, we think he can contribute offensively. He will play hard, he will skate hard. We want to be a hockey team that plays the way Matt plays the game.”
On Pohlkamp’s visit in the fall, he liked everything about Bowling Green, from the arena to the coaching staff, which includes former Warriors head coach Ty Eigner, to a smaller campus. In addition, the Falcons will join the WCHA in 2013-14.
“I was really impressed with how excited they are for their program to move forward,” Pohlkamp said. “I really liked Barry (Schutte), the offensive coach. I like his style. They all have great personalities. It will be fun to be around them.
“Chris Bergeron will be a great coach. He has great intensity. It will be fun.”
Pohlkamp played four years for the Warriors. During his career, Brainerd won three Central Lakes Conference championships and last season made the Section 8-2A finals for only the second time in program history. The Warriors were 41-10 in the CLC, 75-33, in his time on the varsity.
“There have been a lot of different experiences,” Pohlkamp said. “Being a freshman and being a senior are totally different. I would probably say freshman and sophomore years I played to survive, I tried to compete with the older guys. Junior and senior years I played to dominate, play my best, be out there playing good hockey.
“The experience has been great, seeing different players and playing with different people was a lot of fun.”
Jim Archibald coached Pohlkamp all four of his years with the Warriors.
“The Brainerd High School hockey coaching staff and all of (Brainerd Amateur Hockey Association) are very proud of Matt,” Archibald said. “People have to realize there are only 59 schools that offer Division I hockey. Only 300 to 350 players a year enter into a Division I program. Matt was willing to invest the time and energy to chase his dream. He had some tough decisions to make, and obviously he made the right choices.
“He has paid one heck of a price. His commitment, dedication and perseverance, both athletically and academically, have put him in a special group. If your goal is a college roster spot, you need to make sure and do things to make yourself better, and separate yourself from the rest of the crowd.
“This is once again a very special time for the hockey community and the program.”