Despite graduating two of its leading scorers and losing its top player, the Brainerd Warriors boys' hockey team hopes it's on the brink of one of its most successful campaigns.
Two goalies, three defensemen and eight forwards return.
"I will be very disappointed if we don't win the conference, that certainly is something attainable for this group of kids," Warriors coach Ty Eigner said. "I will be disappointed if we don't have a real good showing in a very good Christmas tournament (at Roseville). And, I will be disappointed if we're not playing for the section championship."
Eigner hopes the returning talent offsets the graduation of Morgan Shepherd (27 goals, 54 total points) and Gregg Day (18-32) and defenseman Chris Peluso (11-44), now playing in the United States Hockey League.
"We're not going to have one player that's going to win or lose every game, but we're going to have a lot of players that can help us win a lot of games," Eigner said. "We lost a significant amount of points in Morgan, Gregg and Chris. Do we expect one guy to take up that slack? No. But we think we've got five or six guys who have the potential to score 20 goals.
"If we can get five or six guys scoring 20 goals, and get improvement from our three returning defensemen, now we're looking at scoring upwards of 120, 150 goals. If you score 150 goals over the course of a year you're doing all right. That puts you at better than four a game, which should be enough to win."
Returning forwards include seniors Kiel Browne (5-20), Korey Horn (2-3), Mike Germain 4-7), Conrad Kragness (4-6), Zack Lundbohm (10-23), Geoff Roberts (13-20) and juniors Mike Baker (8-20) and Pete Larson (4-10).
"Initially, we probably will play a lot of kids, trying to figure out who plays best with who," Eigner said. "We've had some groups that played together that kind of led us in the past. Gregg and Morgan played together for the better part of three years and Kiel played with them for two."
Warrior boys' hockey
Picking up the slack: With Morgan Shepherd and Gregg Day having graduatedand and Chris Peluso playing the USHL, the Warriors will look to many players to share the scoring load.
Season opener: at Alexandria, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Head coach -- Ty Eigner, ninth season (sixth at Brainerd, three at Rosemount).
Career record -- 109-101-7 (.519).
Brainerd career record -- 68-55-5 (.553)
2003-04 Brainerd record -- 11-3-1 CLC, 16-9-2 overall.
Returning players -- Kiel Browne (F), Korey Horn (F), Mike Germain (F), Conrad Kragness (F), Zack Lundbohm (F), Brett Travica (D), Geoff Roberts (F), Jake Carlson (G), Mike Baker (F), Pete Larson (F), Ryan Peltoma (D), Carl Sneep (D), Nick Whichello (G).
Assistant coaches -- Toby Kvalevog, Dave Stengrim, Ben Midge.
(7:30 p.m. varsity games unless noted)
23 - at Alexandria
30 - at St. Cloud Tech 5:15 p.m.
2 - at Little Falls
7 - at Sauk Rapids
9 - ST. CLOUD APOLLO
11 - CLOQUET 3:15 p.m.
14 - WILLMAR
16 - at Sartell
21 - at Moorhead
23 - at Forest Lake
27-29 - at Roseville tournament, TBA
4 - ROCORI
6 - ALEXANDRIA
8 - at Duluth East 2 p.m.
11 - ST. CLOUD TECH
13 - LITTLE FALLS
15 - GREENWAY 2:15 p.m.
18 - SAUK RAPIDS
20 - at St. Cloud Apollo
25 - at Willmar
27 - BEMIDJI
29 - at Grand Rapids 3 p.m.
4 - SARTELL
Sneep (4-27), Peltoma (3-11) and Travica 0-2) should make Brainerd solid at the blue line and hopefully compensate for the loss of Peluso, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"Any time you lose an NHL drafted player from your program before he graduates it's a loss, you can't look at it any different," Eigner said. "With that said, I think (Sneep, Peltoma and Travica) are certainly going to be counted on to play a lot of minutes."
In goal, the Warriors return senior Jake Carlson, who finished last season as the No. 1 netminder. He had a 3.24 goals-against average and .868 save percentage. Junior Nick Whichello, the starter as a freshman, had a 3.38 GAA and .858 save percentage. Junior John Williams also figures in the equation. Tyler Ostman, who played as a freshman and sophomore, has transferred.
"We will have participated in six scrimmages before we play," Eigner said. "Everybody will get an opportunity to try and prove they're the guy."
Seniors -- Kiel Browne (F), Korey Horn (F), Mike Germain (F), Conrad Kragness (F), Zack Lundbohm (F), Brett Travica (D), Geoff Roberts (F), Jake Carlson (G)
Juniors -- Mike Baker (F), Pete Larson (F), Ryan Peltoma (D), Carl Sneep (D), Nick Whichello (G)
Senior -- Scott Williams (D)
Juniors -- Jake Johnson (F), Zach Post (F), John Williams (G), Adam Meyer (D), Morgan Impola (F-D), Fred Midge (F)
Sophomores -- Nick Jelacie (D), Jared Hoppe (D), Jack Freeman (F), Austin Schiltz (F), Travis Roberts (F), Chris Whichello (F), Dino Musielewicz (D)
Mike Bialka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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