If anyone could handle playing two physically challenging sports simultaneously it’s Mitch McLain.
This fall McLain quarterbacked the Brainerd Warriors football team to the Section 8-5A championship game and earned all-conference honors.
On weekends during the fall he also played 19 games for the North team in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League. McLain scored five goals and added five assists as the North finished second in the regular season and playoffs.
McLain conceded that is was draining to play football and hockey in the same season.
“It definitely takes a toll on your body but working out at Minnesota Hockey Camps (in Nisswa) got me in good shape,” he said. “The football coaches understood what was going on and we tried to balance the two the best we could.”
Working out at MHC all summer and playing in the elite league has boosted McLain to a lightning-like start three games into the high school season. He leads the Warriors in scoring with eight goals and two assists. His 10 points top the Central Lakes Conference. Against Buffalo, he scored four goals and added an assist.
Warriors coach Jim Archibald said there’s no question playing in the elite league has lifted McLain’s play to a high level.
“When you spend as much time as he has on the ice, once you start to play games it definitely gives you a little bit of an edge,” Archibald said. “He’s jumped off to a great start.”
Archibald and McLain attribute much of the productivity to McLain’s linemates, right wing Matt Pohlkamp and center Aaron Rich.
“He’s playing with two guys that are playing very well also,” Archibald said. “The three of them have been playing very well together. As a result of that Mitch is putting the puck in the net.”
Said McLain, “Aaron is a guy who sees the ice really well. He has great hands. He’s got really good hockey sense.
“Matt’s a big guy, and plays big. He’s real fast. He’s got a great shot. He plays with a motor, and sees the ice well.”
McLain believes his energy complements his linemates’ skills.
“And, I feel like I see the ice well,” said McLain, whose tentative plan is to play for the Alexandria Blizzard of the NAHL next year. “I always take pride in getting to the goal-scoring areas, and doing the little things.”
Last season McLain played on the first line with Pohlkamp and the graduated Josh Archibald, now starring at Nebraska-Omaha in the WCHA. He’s not surprised how the line hasn’t really missed a beat with the addition of Rich.
“Aaron worked hard over the summer and fall trying to become a better hockey player,” McLain said. “He’s always had great hockey sense.”
Other notable efforts:
• Nate Adams, wrestling, won the 152-pound title at the Dick Maher Invitational.
• Casey Biever, wrestling, won the 195-pound title at the Dick Maher Invitational.
• Jodi Bertrand, girls hockey, made 40 saves against Sartell.
• Logan Rivard, boys hockey, scored four goals against Northern Lakes.
• Zoe Wolhart, girls hockey, had a hat trick against North Wright County.
•Riley Kline, boys basketball, scored 24 points against Pequot Lakes.