Adapted Floor Hockey: Warriors hope to improve upon last year's state finish
Last year the Brainerd Warriors entered the state tournament as the No. 1 seed in the North Division, but came away with a third-place finish. This weekend, the Warriors hope to reverse their fortunes. They are the North's No. 3 seed and hoping t...
Last year the Brainerd Warriors entered the state tournament as the No. 1 seed in the North Division, but came away with a third-place finish.
This weekend, the Warriors hope to reverse their fortunes. They are the North's No. 3 seed and hoping to score a few upsets and improve upon last year's state showing.
"I think the kids are feeling they can improve on our third-place finish last year," Warriors coach Todd Person said. "Looking around I think we all think we're a better team than we were a year ago. I think the kids feel it. Hopefully we can do something about it when we get there."
- Who: Brainerd Warriors vs. Rochester Raiders
- Where: Bloomington Jefferson High School
- When: 5 p.m. Friday
--- Brainerd (5-4) opens Friday against South No. 2 Rochester (5-6). The teams did not play in the regular season.
"I know they beat Dakota United early in a preseason tournament," Person said. "They've got a big roster, 29 players, that they will have to cut down to 20 or so for the state tournament.
"We've played them the last two years in the third-place game and beat them both years, but their roster wasn't nearly as big as what it is this year."
If the Warriors get past Rochester, they likely would play the South's top-seeded Anoka-Hennepin (8-1). The Mustangs were state runners-up in 2015 and play North No. 4 Maple Grove (1-8) in the quarterfinals.
"Going into the season we knew Anoka would be the toughest team we would probably face this year," Person said. "They proved that by beating Robbinsdale twice and they beat us once. We gave them their only loss of the year.
"If we get by Rochester, we would play Anoka in the semifinals. I'm confident we can bounce back from the loss we had with them in early February and make it hopefully to the final game this year, which is definitely a team goal in general. The kids want to get past that semifinal round."
Sophomores Jake Heikkenen, Cody Vleck and Jacob Heinlen lead the Warriors offensive attack. Heikkenen has 11 goals and 11 assists, Vleck seven goals and 13 assists and Heinlen six goals and eight assists.
"Our three sophomores up front have been working hard in practice," Person said. "I think they'll be ready to go. Cody is coming off an illness so we're hoping he's able to be 100 percent by the time the weekend rolls around. He's been there since seventh grade so he knows what to expect."
Zach Denny, who was named to the all-tournament team a year ago, stopped 97 of 113 shots during the regular season for an 86-percent save percentage. Heikkenen and Blaise Edinger each have seen brief duty in goal to give Denny the opportunity to move up front.
Person hopes the Minnesota State High School League considers adjusting the season in 2016-17. Teams could begin practice Nov. 16, 2015, and start playing games nine days later. However, most teams, like Brainerd, don't open the season until January.
"There was a (Minnesota Adapted Athletics Association) meeting Wednesday and hopefully they talked about schedules for next year," Person said. "Everyone has asked for more games next year. It's tough when you have a season as long as it is and only have (nine) contests. It's kind of disjointed."
The Brainerd Sports Boosters Club is sponsoring a state send off for the Warriors at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Prairie Bay. The public is welcome.