In his first season as Brainerd High School boys' hockey coach Ty Eigner directed the Warriors to an 18-3-1 record, tying for the second-most wins in program history.
The Warriors have not attained that victory total since but appear to have the potential, depth and experience to match or surpass that mark this season.
Brainerd returns 11 letterwinners from a team that won 15 games, including four-year regular Nick Whichello in net and three-year starters Carl Sneep and Ryan Peltoma on defense and Mike Baker and Pete Larson at forward positions.
Captains of the 2005-06 Brainerd Warrior boys' hockey team are Ryan Peltoma (left), Carl Sneep and Mike Baker. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
"Our kids feel confident about the possibilities this season has, and I know our coaches feel confident about it," Eigner said.
"We believe this team has a chance to do something special," he added. "Two years ago we won our first-round playoff game and went to the section semifinals. It's been since 1992 that Brainerd was in the section final. We think this group will be really disappointed if they're not in that same position."
Sneep led the team in scoring with 19 goals and 42 total points. Baker contributed 10-23-33, Peltoma 6-22-28 and Larson 6-18-24. Whichello had a 2.31 goals-against average and 90.4 save percentage.
Baker, Sneep and Peltoma earned all-conference honors and played in the fall elite league along with five teammates.
"Our senior class starts with Ryan, Mike and Carl but it doesn't end there," Eigner said. "We've got a very solid class of seniors that have been very successful in their youth hockey careers and come into this year confident and positive about what this team could do.
Head coach: Ty Eigner, 10th season (seventh at Brainerd, three at Rosemount).
Career record: 124-109-10 (.532).
Brainerd career record: 83-63-8 (.568)
2004-05 Brainerd record: 11-3-1 CLC, 15-8-3 overall.
Returning players: Mike Baker, Pete Larson, Jake Johnson, Morgan Impola, Fred Midge, Tyler Swoboda, Nick Whichello, Carl Sneep, Ryan Peltoma, Jared Hoppe, Nick Jelacie.
Assistant coaches: Toby Kvalevog, Dave Stengrim, Ben Midge, Joe Ciardelli.
Coach Ty Eigner is optimistic with 11 letterwinners returning.
"We had eight players who played in two different competitive fall leagues to prepare themselves for this season, which is more than we've ever had."
In goal, Whichello is being challenged by junior Landon Snider.
"Those two kids are really pushing each other for the position," Eigner said. "(Assistant coach) Toby Kvalevog works with them mostly and he's on top of that.
"They know the situation. They're challenging and pushing each other for that job, so it's a really competitive situation. But, we feel confident that either of the two will give us an opportunity to win every night."
On defense, in addition to Sneep and Peltoma, juniors Jared Hoppe (0-3-3) and Nick Jelacie (0-3-3) return.
"Most teams are lucky to have a couple guys they feel comfortable with," Eigner said. "Right now we have a number of players who can play back there, whether it be five or six."
At forward, along with Baker and Larson, the Warriors return seniors Jake Johnson (2-7-9), Fred Midge (2-0-2) and Morgan Impola (1-1-2), and junior Tyler Swoboda (1-1-2).
"We have the most depth we've ever had at forward," Eigner said. "We have a lot of players than can contribute, night in and night out. Our biggest challenge is trying to find out who fits best with who and putting guys in positions to be successful.
"Over the course of 25 games in 17 weeks it changes but it's certainly nice to know we've got options. There have been times in the past when we didn't have a lot of options. After a certain amount of forwards there was a significant dropoff. I don't think that's the case this year."
Defense: Carl Sneep, Ryan Peltoma, Dino Musielewicz, Jared Hoppe, Nick Jelacie, Drew Olson
Forwards: Mike Baker, Jake Johnson, Fred Midge, Morgan Impola, Pete Larson, Ollie Lahdesmaki, Sam Holland, Austin Schiltz, Jack Freeman, Travis Roberts, Tyler Swoboda, Bronson Shepherd, Joe Frazier, Tyler Monda
Goalies: Nick Whichello, Landon Snider
MIKE BIALKA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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