Warriors Athlete of Week:
Years from now, maybe at a class reunion, Jared Stearns can say to a former teammate something like, “Remember when we won at Roseau for the first time?”
Stearns played a vital role last Saturday as the Brainerd Warriors won at Roseau for the first time in boys hockey program history, beating the Rams 5-1.
The senior goalie stopped all but one of the 36 shots the Rams fired at him, won his fourth straight game and elevated his season record to 11-2-0.
“We all played very well,” Stearns said. “We got a few too many penalties but we killed them off and ended up scoring five goals. Winning a game up there, the feeling is unbelievable because it was the first time (Brainerd has) ever done that and Roseau is always a pretty high-powered team. It definitely gives us a higher seed for the section playoffs.”
The victory raised Stearns’ save percentage to .917 and lowered his goals-against average to 1.79. He has recorded four shutouts this winter.
“He’s basically improving his game every time he steps on the ice,” Warriors head coach Jim Archibald said. “This summer he took it upon himself to make himself physically stronger, which has helped him with his speed and reaction time. He also went to Minnesota Hockey Camp (in Nisswa). He also has paid the price in the offseason.”
Stearns worked in the pro shop at MHC last summer before working out there. He had an opportunity to work with NHL players like T.J. Oshie, Ryan and Brad Malone, and Scott Hartnell.
“I worked there for about nine weeks,” he said. “I was working there every day from 8 in the morning to 6 at night. I just worked my butt off, going on the ice twice a day, doing dryland training. I gained a lot of strength and power over the summer, which helps build quickness. And, I went to a few Junior tryouts. To see that pace of play has definitely helped.”
Steve Ebinger, in his first season as Warriors’ goalie coach, believes one of the biggest differences between Stearns’ play last season and this year is his consistency.
“He’s really been focusing on being a consistent goaltender, just being a lot more solid than he was last year, making sure he’s stopping the shots he should stop, coming up with a few saves that he shouldn’t but he does anyway,” Ebinger said. “He’s given us, for the most part, a chance every game he’s played in.”
Ebinger added that Stearns succeeds because he listens, and accepts, instruction.
“Things we’re working on, or trying to focus on, he goes out and really works on it, he concentrates on certain things,” Ebinger said. “Honestly, I don’t do a whole lot with him, other than help him a little bit with the mental part of it.
“(Former goalie coach) Toby Kvalevog did a great job the last several years working with all the goalies that I’m working with. Fundamentals, techniques ... Jared’s a product of Toby’s and the hard work that he put in over the summer.”
Backup goalie Kyle Helmberger pushes Stearns to be the best he can be.
“Kyle’s definitely a very good goalie,” Stearns said. “He’s a junior, he’ll be the guy next year. He played in Elite IIs in the fall. He works his butt off. He pushes me to be the best I can be. Him working hard makes me work hard, which makes us both better.”
Other notable efforts:
• Zean Baker, Nordic skiing, won the boys race in the Bemidji Invite.
• Jack Sauer, boys basketball, scored 26 points against Sartell.
• Aaron Rich, boys hockey, had a hat trick and two assists against Tech.
• Madison Grausam, gymnastics, won two events against Sartell.
• Dan Babineau, Nate Adams, Levi Rubin and Casey Biever, wrestling, won championships at the Elk River tournament.