In 2007-08 the Brainerd Warriors adapted floor hockey team had several first-year players and went on to place sixth in the state tournament.
Brainerd appears to have a shot at bettering that showing later this winter as every member of last year's team returns.
"We will expect a lot out of our veteran crew in terms of play, and in terms of working together," Warriors coach Bruce Thompson said. "In our North Division we have to point toward Robbinsdale, they're going to be a fairly good team, and Anoka, which won the state championship.
"We just have to step it up a notch, and I think we can."
Head coach: Bruce Thompson, 10th season
Career record: 94-46-1 (.671)
2007-08 Brainerd record: 9-6
Returning all-state tournament player: Ethan Rudbeck
Assistant coaches: Ron Allord, Eric Rohlfing.
13: at Robbinsdale Armstrong, 4:30 p.m.
15: Anoka, 5 p.m.
26: at Maple Grove, 4:30 p.m.
28: Mounds View, 6 p.m.
3: at Wayzata, 5:30
5: at White Bear Lake, 4:30 p.m.
9: Robbinsdale Armstrong, 5 p.m.
11: at Anoka, 4:30 p.m.
23: Maple Grove, 5 p.m.
26: at Mounds View, 5 p.m.
5: Wayzata, 5 p.m.
20-21: State tournament at Bloomington Jefferson
Seniors: Ethan Rudbeck, Kelsey Brodmarkle, Daniel Meyer, Mary Sebasky.
Sophomores: Tyler Theien, Wes Blomberg
Brainerd's offense will build around senior Ethan Rudbeck, who made the all-state tournament team. He led the team in scoring with 29 goals and 19 assists.
"When his shot is on he can score," Thompson said. "He's also really valuable as a passer. He sets up a lot of our kids. He has the most powerful shot on our team. He can score from anywhere."
Tyler Theien (18 goals, 9 assists) and Austin Annable (10-12) complete the first line with Rudbeck.
Other top scorers back include Jacob Kretzman (2-8), Wes Blomberg (4-5), Nathan Engelmann (1-2), Kelsey Brodmarkle (1-2) and Ned Aga (0-1).
"The beauty of having veteran players back is we are, for the first time in a number of years, able to rotate lines and give our kids a break," Thompson said. "Sometimes we've been playing teams and we just get worn down, like against Robbinsdale or Anoka. They've got so many kids to put on the floor, and we've got to stay with our better players because we don't match up as well. This year we should be able to rotate quite a bit."
Thompson said players like Blomberg, Kretzman, Annable and Theien could all drop back and play a walker defense position.
Members of the Brainerd Warriors floor hockey team raised their sticks at practice last week. Brainerd is scheduled to open Tuesday at Robbinsdale Armstrong. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Anna Wahl and Daniel Meyer return in goal.
"We could put a standup goalie in, then we would have two chairs (on defense)," Thompson said. "Another way to do it would be to put a chair in goal, a chair outside the goal, and have a walker defender. The value of the walker defender is they can also be an attacker.
"If you've got a really strong line that walker defender can come in and join your center and two wings, and now you've got a fourth attacker up there.
"The other advantage is if your walker defender's got a great shot you can bring him in the neutral zone and let them fire on goal."
Returning this year is senior Mary Sebasky, who missed last season due to knee surgery. New to the team will be seventh-grader Harley Annable.
Freshmen: Jacob Kretzman, Anna Wahl, Austin Annable, Ned Aga
Eighth grader: Nate Engelmann
Seventh grader: Harley Annable
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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