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Warriors Athlete of Week: Defenseman flourishes as leader, scorer, on special teams

Brainerd’s Mitch Andres skates with the puck against Fergus Falls. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch

Mitch Andres

Sport: Hockey

Position: Defense

Year: Senior

Age: 18

Height: 6-foot-2

Career highlight: Beating Moorhead at home in overtime this season

Grade-point average: 3.5

Favorite class: Novels

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite movie: "Miracle"

Favorite TV show: "How I Met Your Mother"

Favorite app: Twitter

Future plans: Hopes to play junior hockey

Favorite hockey player: Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty

Parents: Lee and Michelle Andres

As a sophomore defenseman for the Brainerd Warriors, Mitch Andres suffered a double whammy.

During the fall of 2014, he suffered a cracked femur but played through pain before having to sit out about six weeks, returning in time for Section 8-2A playoff games against Buffalo and Bemidji.

In the summer of 2015, he broke his leg in two places and broke an ankle and had to undergo surgery.

"It was pretty frustrating," Andres said. "Working hard all summer and only being able to get a couple games in and being out for the rest of the season."

Andres returned to full strength last season for the Warriors, playing in all 26 games and collecting two goals and 22 assists.

This season, the senior captain has emerged as a team leader and a top scorer and is one of the team's anchors on special teams. At last week's Duluth Marshall Tournament, he scored three goals and collected four points.

Entering Friday's key section matchup against Roseau at home, he stands third on the team in points (5 goals, 9 assists). Included in his totals are three game-winning goals.

"I'm just trying to jump in the play as much as I can," Andres said, "and not be selfish. The points have just been coming. Everyone's been getting points."

One of his game-winners occurred in last week's 2-1 overtime victory against defending section champion Bemidji at the Duluth Marshall Tournament. The win avenged a 4-1 season-opening loss to the Lumberjacks.

"We came into the zone and were working it around," Andres said. "Jack (Evans) had the puck. I found a seam through the back side. He made a really nice pass to me and I was able to put it past the goalie."

Warriors head coach Dave Aus said until last season Andres hadn't been able to spend a lot of time working with the coaching staff. Aus believes summer hockey is important, especially for defenseman, so the amount of time Andres missed was concerning.

Aus said Andres has benefited from working with assistant coaches Dave Stengrim and Tony Sarsland on improving his play at the blue line.

"The reason he's become more proficient there is he can skate," Aus said. "If you can skate, you can play, and he certainly can skate. He's big, he's added strength. I think strength is really underrated in hockey.

"Part of why we got beat by (Duluth) Marshall is because they were physically way stronger than we were and controlled the front of the net. When you add (size and strength) with his skating, and he's got a pretty good stick, that makes him a pretty good defender."

Aus said Andres is capable of carrying the puck out of the zone, which helps him be a scoring threat. In addition to the overtime goal against Bemidji, Andres scored the game's first goal in the second period.

"He can really shoot," Aus said. "His first goal (Dec. 29) was unbelievable because the goalie he scored on was good. (Matt) Fitzgerald is a top-level goalie. Mitch shot it from maybe the top of the circle and the goalie never moved. It went in and out of the net so quick it caught (Fitzgerald) off guard. Mitch can snap the puck off quick. He spends a lot of time shooting. It's definitely a huge weapon for him.

"The game-winner he got down low by the dot on a power play. There were really good passes from Matt Fischer and Evans that allowed him to get the puck on his stick and he made no mistake about it. He did a great job corralling the puck. He had time because I don't know the goalie even knew where the puck was. As the goalie tried to move, Mitch blew it past him."

Andres shares the 'C' on a sweater with Fischer, a junior forward.

"I just try to be a good role model, set a good example for everyone else on the team, work hard and hopefully the guys will follow suit," Andres said.

Aus said having a blue-liner step into a leadership role has been significant.

"He picks his words wisely," Aus said. "I've been hearing him, especially (last) Thursday before the game, reiterating the game plan and what we're trying to do. And he's buying into what we're doing ,which is going to give him success."

Other notable efforts:

• Kylee Heurung, girls basketball, scored 31 points and had eight rebounds vs. Grand Rapids.

• Evan Storbakken, Nordic skiing, won the boys race at the Otter Tail Invite.

• Preston Owen and Gunnar Niemeyer, swimming, each won two events and were on two winning relays in the Brainerd Invite.

• Riley Johnson, boys hockey, had two goals and two assists vs. St. Francis.

• Colin Kleffman, boys hockey, stopped 10 shots in a shutout of St. Cloud Tech/Apollo.

• Michael Russell, boys basketball, scored 27 points vs. Elk River and 22 vs Alexandria.

• Cheyenne Abear girls hockey, scored a hat trick vs. the St. Cloud Icebreakers.

• Abby Pohlkamp, girls hockey, had a hat trick vs. St. Cloud and two goals and two assists vs. Buffalo/Maple Lake.

• Lindsey Booth, girls hockey, had a goal and four assists vs. Buffalo/Maple Lake.

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