Two-time all-tournament selection Ethan Rudbeck has graduated but the Brainerd Warriors hope they have the scoring punch to replace him.
As well as leadership and defense, areas where Rudbeck also served the Warriors well.
"One of our big goals is to play as a team," said Warriors coach Bruce Thompson, whose squad opens Thursday at defending state champion Robbinsdale Armstrong. "We have to find some leadership. We lost some good leaders and Ethan is going to be hard to replace.
"This team has to play together. It's a team win or a team loss, that's the way it's got to be played. We can't get caught up on individual stats. If you play as an individual that's not our style of play. Our tradition is passing and playing a team game.
Coaches Bruce Thompson (left) and Ron Allord talked to the Brainerd Warriors adapted floor hockey team during a break at practice last week. Brainerd is scheduled to open Thursday night at Robbinsdale Armstrong. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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"Another thing we're focused on is how we play defense, get back and help our goalies. We have to create a good defensive front end of the floor."
Juniors Tyler Theien and Wes Blomberg and sophomore Austin Annable are players the Warriors are counting on to provide scoring, leadership and defense.
Adapted floor hockey
Head coach: Bruce Thompson, 11th season
Career record: 104-52-1 (.667)
2009-10 Brainerd record: 10-6
Assistant coaches: Ron Allord, Eric Rohlfing.
(Home games at Riverside Elementary)
Jan. 14, at Robbinsdale Armstrong 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 19, vs. Anoka at Andover 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 26, Maple Grove 5 p.m.
Jan. 28, at Mounds View 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 2, Wayzata 5 p.m.
Feb. 8, Robbinsdale Armstrong 5 p.m.
Feb. 11, Anoka 5 p.m.
Feb. 18, at Maple Grove 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 23, Mounds View 5 p.m.
Feb. 25, at Wayzata 6 p.m.
Theien was second on the team in scoring last season with 32 goals and 39 points. Blomberg added 12 goals and 31 points and Annable had four goals and 21 points as Brainerd went 10-6 and placed fourth in the state tournament.
"We're looking for Tyler to be a consistent scorer, but also to be a consistent defensive player," Thompson said. "That's one thing we have to look at, team-wise, is to play better defense, push the puck up the floor, get back and help our goalies. It's the same with Wes.
"We have to be able to score and set up a play and score points but also play defense. We have to be more balanced. That's something we're too lax on. We have to make an effort to get back on defense. Austin is another one who will help us.
"All three of them might play some walker (defense) as well as being a wing or center. I think they're all interchangeable across the front line."
Sophomore Anna Wahl returns in goal.
"Anna did a nice job last year," Thompson said. "Now we've got to find a complement, someone back there that can play. We're not sure who that will be. We've got to find a walker 'D.'
"Anna will be our chair goalie. For that defensive chair that sits outside the crease everyone else on the roster is a candidate. We'll see who plays best in that position. We have to get into a position where at least we get some kind of block on a shot."
Candidates to play in front of Wahl include Brock Saatzer, Harlee Annable, Ned Aga, Richard Volkmuth, Jacob Kretzman, Brennen Myers and Nate Engelmann.
"We haven't settled on a wheelchair player," Thompson said. "We've got some kids we're trying out at that position.
"We have a couple areas that are question marks right now. Ned broke an ankle before (holiday) break. He will be a chair player for sure. We've got a mix of veterans and it's nice to have a few new kids. We'll just roll from there."
Juniors: Tyler Theien (F-D), Wes Blomberg (F-D)
Sophomores: Austin Annable (F-D), Richard Volkmuth (F-D), Jacob Kretzman (F-D), Ned Aga (G), Anna Wahl (G), Brennen Myers (F-D)
Freshmen: Nate Engelmann (F)
Eighth-grader: Harlee Annable (F-D)
Seventh grade: Brock Saatzer (F-D)
Sixth grader: Sammy Perttula
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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