Beginning his first season as coach of the Brainerd Warriors in 2011-12, Todd Person inherited 13 players from Bruce Thompson, the previous head coach.
Those returning players helped Brainerd to an 8-6 record and the consolation championship at the 2012 state tournament.
This season may present a rebuilding project for Person as the Warriors return seven players, but their 10-player roster includes only one senior and one junior.
“It’s going to be a little bit difficult, coming off the senior-heavy team that we had last year,” Person said. “In fact, our numbers are down. The kids are going to need to play more minutes than they have in the past.
“We have been running as much as we can in practice, trying to get the kids in shape for playing three full periods.”
Leading goal-scorers Austin Annable and Brandon Myers have graduated. Austin Annable also played a walker defense position.
“Austin was a player that had been there for years and was an all-state player,” Person said. “We’re hoping we get some experience and see how things shake out when the postseason comes.
“Hopefully, that first playoff game would be a home game for us and we make it into the state tournament again.”
Returnees from last year include senior Nate Engelmann, junior Harlee Annable, sophomore Brock Saatzer, and freshmen Sam Pertulla, Devin Annable, Ray Borg and Dalton Schreier.
Devin Annable is the leading returning scorer with 16 goals and 8 assists. He was named to the all-state tournament team.
“Devin’s got a broken wrist right now,” Person said. “He’s playing with a cast on it. He hopes to have that off (in time for the opener Wednesday, Jan. 23).
“Devin came on strong at the end of the year. Hopefully, he will put some in the net for us. We’re also hoping that our new players can pick up on that.”
Saatzer contributed 4 goals and 4 assists last season.
“Brock had a hat trick at the state tournament,” Person said. “We’re hoping he steps up and scores goals over the whole season.”
Borg scored two goals and collected five assists from his forward spot.
Schreier added a goal and three assists as a defenseman.
“Dalton has stepped up to a new role and has been working in the walker D position, which we’ve had for years when Austin Annable was back there,” Person said. “(Eighth-grader) Zach Denny has also been working in that position. Zach is looking really good there as well.”
Harlee Annable, who played one game in goal last year and recorded 15 saves, is likely to be the full-time netminder this season. He replaces the graduated Anna Wahl.
“Harlee has been really looking good in practice,” Person said. “We’ve changed some things about how he plays in goal. We’ve thrown some pads on him, given him a stick, which Anna didn’t use, and Harlee really looks good with that. Hopefully, that can keep some of those pucks out of the net.”
Person is encouraged by what he has seen from seventh-grader Cody Vleck in practice, which began Dec. 3.
“Cody is probably going to look at starting as a seventh-grader, which is really cool,” Person said.
Person enters his second season more comfortable than his first go-round.
“Just knowing what to expect when we get into game situations and some places we play,” he said. “Anoka, especially, with the rubberized floor they have and the small gym they play in, things that last year took me by surprise not knowing things like that.”
Senior: Nate Engelmann F
Junior: Harlee Annable G
Sophomores: Randy Volkmuth F, Brock Saatzer F,
Freshmen: Sam Pertulla D, Ray Borg F, Dalton Schreier D, Devin Annable F
Eighth grade: Zachary Denny D
Seventh grade: Cody Vleck F
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.