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Warriors Athlete of Week: An unforgettable state tournament

Brainerd’s Jake Heikkenen handles the puck during a game this season. Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch

Jake Heikkenen produced an adapted floor hockey state tournament that he will never forget and one the Minnesota State High School League has never seen.

The Brainerd junior left wing accumulated a tournament-record 21 points in helping the Warriors capture the state championship in physically impaired division as they outscored three foes 36-7. The performance earned Heikkenen a spot on the all-tournament team along with teammates Zachary Denny and Cody Vleck.

Heikkenen thought he had a shot to break the tournament scoring record after a 9-point performance against Mounds View in Friday's quarterfinals.

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Jake Heikkenen

  • Sport: Adapted floor hockey
  • Position: Left wing
  • Year: Junior
  • Age: 16
  • Height: 5-foot-8
  • Career highlight: Winning state championship last weekend
  • Grade-point average: 3.5
  • Favorite class: Pre-Calculus
  • Favorite food: Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Favorite movie: "Unbroken"
  • Favorite TV show: "Raising Hope"
  • Favorite website: "YouTube"
  • Future plans: Attend college, possibly major in criminal justice
  • Favorite athlete: Charlie Coyle of the Minnesota Wild
  • Parents: Shelley Howe and Jon Heikkenen

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"We were looking through the records and I thought, 'Hey, I'm already at a decent amount of points right now. I could try to go for it,'" Heikkenen said. "During the day (Saturday) I didn't think about it, but after the tournament I thought maybe I got that."

His 13 goals and eight assists for 21 points broke the previous record of 20 points set in 1994.

"Jake not only is a leader with his play but he really treats everyone on the team with respect," Warriors coach Todd Person said. "He's a true team player. He's there to help everyone become better and that shows in pretty much every game he plays in.

"He moves the puck around. When our younger kids are on the floor, he makes sure they're moving in the right direction, getting in the spots they need to be. He makes the passes he needs to make to get those kids involved."

Heikkenen amassed four goals and five assists in the quarterfinals, five goals and two assists in the semifinals and four goals and an assist in the championship game.

"Down there he just took over, especially in the semifinal game against Robbinsdale," Person said. "He just took that game over and put it out of reach quickly. Our younger kids then could come in and do what they needed to do."

Heikkenen believes being a good teammate is part of his job as one of the team's three captains.

"I just love to see everyone improve," he said. "You can see where someone starts. They work and work and work and you can see it pays off. Blaise Edinger started the season not very good in my opinion, but now he's a great player. He improved so much this season."

Heikkenen credited linemates Matt Allord at right wing, Jacob Heinlen at center and walker defenseman Zach Denny for his offensive production.

"Zach is a senior who really controls the floor," Heikkenen said. "He's really good at that position. Jacob Heinlen does a great job at center, holding the puck in. Matt Allord is always there for passes and for making passes. We just work really well together."

Person said early on he could see the potential that Heikkenen, a junior who completed his fourth varsity season, possessed.

"He's a good student," Person said. "He's in (Advanced Placement) and upper-level courses and that helps. He's a smart boy. That always helps with him being able to understand the game and what we're trying to do. That's where his leadership skills come into play."

Person said determination enables Heikkenen to be such a talented player.

"He wanted to be in the position we were in this weekend," Person said. "Jake works hard every day in practice. He's not one to ever back down from a challenge. If coach (Josh) Fordyce or I say, 'Should we do one more of this drill or that?' He's always, 'Yep, let's do that again. Let's go one more. We're tired, but let's push harder.'

"I saw (the potential) with Jake (in 2015) when we lost at Robbinsdale for the one loss we had in the regular season. Jake put a goal in as time expired that was waved off because we had a player offside. He's built from that point with 'I'm going to do everything I can do to get better."

The state championship was the third in the 22-year history of Brainerd's program. The team was escorted on its return to Brainerd law enforcement and the Brainerd Fire Department.

"It's a pretty unforgettable memory," Heikkenen said of the state title. "It's nice to be able to do that for Brainerd.

"It was amazing," Heikkenen said of the escort. "I've never been in anything like that before. It was pretty cool."

During the regular season, Brainerd went 12-0, outscoring the opposition 87-28. Heikkenen scored 25 goals during the regular season with 18 assists. He finished the season with 64 points.

"I just want to thank all my teammates, coaches and families for coming out and supporting us," he said.

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