Former Brainerd Warriors are 2-for-2.
As in winning two NCAA national hockey championships in two years.
On Saturday, Minnesota-Duluth sophomore defenseman Drew Olson joined former Warrior teammate and Boston College alumnus Carl Sneep in becoming a Brainerd hockey player to play on a national championship team in the last two years.
Olson and the Bulldogs captured their crown in front of 19,222 partisan fans at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over Michigan.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” Olson said Monday. “It’s tough to try to explain it in words because what we accomplished as a school, for the first time in school history, we’re going to remember this for the rest of our lives.”
Beginning in 2007, Sneep played in three Frozen Fours. Another former Warrior, Chris Peluso, played for Bemidji State in the 2009 Frozen Four semifinals. What does that say about Warrior hockey, with three different players skating in the last five Frozen Fours?
“I think when people look at Brainerd they think of it as more of a football town, and kind of a baseball town,” Olson said. “But when you look at our track record, we have Peluso, he went to the Frozen Four a few years ago, and obviously Sneep won two championships. He went to the Frozen Four three of the four years he was there. I think hockey is starting to be a little more noticeable in Brainerd.”
The Bulldogs and their families celebrated their title at a Twin Cities restaurant Saturday night. Sunday was a hectic day as UMD was recognized at Target Field before the Twins game against Oakland and later that afternoon at the X during the Wild’s game against Dallas.
“It was so surreal, walking through the tunnel, coming out on the field, seeing all the fans,” Olson said of Target Field. “Most of the fans even knew what we accomplished. We got to meet a few players, it was just another experience that you’re not ever going to forget.
“That actually was my first time at Target Field. Being my first time there, getting announced, going on the field, getting to meet (Twins manager Ron Gardenhire), it was unreal.”
On their way back to Duluth the Bulldogs stopped at the X.
“They wanted to acknowledge us in the first period,” Olson said. “It was pretty cool. All the guys were joking around when we were there, everyone was being sarcastic ... ‘Didn’t we just win something when we were here yesterday?’ Going back to the scene of the crime was pretty special.
“It’s been an absolute blast, the time of my life. Not many people can experience what I’ve experienced.”
The Columbus Bluejackets draftee played in 34 of the Bulldogs’ 42 games this season, scoring the first goal of his collegiate career and picking up three assists. He was primarily the Bulldogs’ fifth defenseman the entire season.
“A few guys are graduating on the defensive corps,” Olson said. “Three of them are leaving for sure, two of them played pretty big roles. I think I can jump into the top four and be one of those main guys next year.”
Olson plans to attend Minnesota Hockey Camps in Nisswa this summer as he has for the past 12 offseasons. He also hopes to attend Columbus’ rookie camp in July.
Tigers will not roar
Edward D. Fox, chairman/coach of the Minnesota Tigers of the Midwest Spring Football League, reports that, due to lack of players, the semi-pro football team won't play this year.
Fox said the dues the team paid for this season will be applied to next year and the team plans to start playing in 2012.
Braves sitting out
The Brainerd Braves amateur baseball team is taking a leave of absence from the Victory League this season.
The North Division, in which the Braves played, will now consist of Cuyuna Range, Fort Ripley, St. Mathias and the Nisswa Lightning, who left the Lake and Pine League.
West and South divisions open April 23, North and East divisions open May 1.
Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.