In Jim Archibald’s 5-plus seasons as head coach of the Brainerd boys hockey team, the Warriors have had top-notch first lines.
Players like Josh Archibald, Bret Jenkins, Matt Pohlkamp, Mitch McLain and Aaron Rich have composed Brainerd’s top line and helped Brainerd win 96 of 135 games (.711 winning percentage) and make two section finals appearances.
This season, the Warriors have another high-flying first line, consisting of center Logan Rivard, left wing Cole Smith and right wing Jake Ellingson. Through five games they have combined for 16 goals and 32 points.
Rivard so far has been the line’s instigator with nine goals and eight assists for a team-high 17 points. The 3-year varsity regular says credit for his start should go to teammates.
“I think it’s all my teammates,” he said. “They’re playing great right now, allowing me personally to be successful.”
Rivard opened the season with a goal and two assists against Alexandria. He’s followed with two goals and three assists against River Lakes, two goals against St. Cloud Tech, a hat trick and assist against Monticello and a goal and two assists against St. Cloud Apollo.
“Since early summer, Logan’s been working hard on his development,” Warriors coach Jim Archibald said. “His hard work and commitment over that time has helped him master the individual skills necessary to be very effective. He’s put in a lot of time.
“He’s a skilled hockey player who can create opportunities and make plays. He’s off to a very nice start. He’s certainly playing with a little more of that edge to his game. He has become a lot more involved.”
Rivard guesstimated that he, Ellingson and Smith have played on the same line since Pee Wees. That familiarity breeds success.
“We know where each other’s going to be,” Rivard said. “Both of them are great players. Jake’s got a great shot, and a good scoring touch. Cole is good in open ice and in the corners. He does pretty much everything out there. He’s just a complete player. It’s great playing with both of them.
“We truly do know where each other will be out there on the ice pretty much all the time. We’re just familiar. We can just go over plays and we have a few set plays we like to run. We’re just really familiar with each other.”
One of Rivard’s goals is to set up Ellingson and Smith.
“I try to see the ice the best I can, try to get the puck to them a lot, and hopefully score a few goals,” he said.
Rivard also credits an offseason of working out with teammates. The Warriors applied for, and were granted, a summer waiver from the Minnesota State High School League to conduct offseason workouts.
“Last summer, instead of going to hockey camp, pretty much the whole team skated together,” Rivard said. “It was run by our coaches, and we were just running our systems, trying to get better each and every day. I think it helped us.”
Brainerd has jumped to a 4-1-0 start. Despite high expectations this season, the Warriors dropped the season opener 4-3 in overtime at Alexandria.
“It was really disappointing,” Rivard said. “It made us realize we can’t come into every game and just think we’re going to win. We have to play the game, we have to play our game.”
Archibald said Rivard’s play has been instrumental in Brainerd’s success.
“Our expectations this year are high,” he said. “We put a lot of pressure on all our seniors to do well. Logan, in the initial (five) games, has stepped it up. He’s leading by example.
“As coaches, we’re certainly happy and pleased with his play so far. We’re also very confident he will continue exactly the way he has.”
The last few years, the Warriors have sent several players to Division I programs. Rivard would like to add his name to that list some day.
“I want to follow in those guys’ footsteps, be a Division I player some day,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do but I want to follow in their footsteps. They’re great players. Hopefully things happen that I can do that.”
He also would like to help Brainerd to its first state tournament. In each of the last two seasons, the Warriors knocked on the door of the state tournament but were denied each time by Moorhead. What might give Brainerd an edge this year?
“I think our depth, that’s what can get us over the hump and finally help us get to the state tournament,” Rivard said.
Other notable efforts:
■ Beth Etterman, gymnastics, won the all-around title in the season’s first three meets.
■ Sara Wennerstrand, girls hockey, made 41 saves vs. the St. Cloud Icebreakers, 42 against Sartell/Sauk Rapids, 45 vs. Alexandria and 45 vs. the Icebreakers.
■ Noah Baker and Ben Hanson, Nordic skiing, combined to win the boys race at the Bemidji Relays.
■ Nick Goll, boys swimming, won two events and two relays vs. Sauk Rapids and vs. Alexandria and won two events vs. Tech.
■ David Supinski, boys swimming, won two events and two relays vs. Sauk Rapids and vs. Tech.
■ Cole Kubesh, Drew Breun and Doug Fillbrandt, wrestling, won titles at the Blue Earth Invite.
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.