Boys Hockey: Coach comfortable, energized for Year Two to begin

With one year under his belt as head coach of the Brainerd Warriors, and having an offseason to devote to the program, Dave Aus is feeling more comfortable and energized as Year Two is about to begin.

Goalie Brady Mick faces off against Sam Selisker during Brainerd boys hockey practice. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)
Goalie Brady Mick faces off against Sam Selisker during Brainerd boys hockey practice. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

With one year under his belt as head coach of the Brainerd Warriors, and having an offseason to devote to the program, Dave Aus is feeling more comfortable and energized as Year Two is about to begin.

The offseason gave Aus and his staff an opportunity to put their stamp on the program in at least three areas: A summer training program, strength training and implementation of a leadership council.


Boys hockey

Head coach: Dave Aus, second season at Brainerd (14 years at Blaine)


Brainerd 2014-15 record: 5-6-1 CLC, 9-17-1 overall

Captains: Happy Rivard, Brady Mick

Assistant captains: Josh Howieson, Eric Stout, Colton Kramer, Mitchell Andres

Assistant coaches: Dave Stengrim, Ryan Glas, Chico Resch (goalies), Kurt King (JV), Rob Owen (JV)


"First, we did the STP thing," Aus said. "It's really important. It gives me a chance not to have any pressure of performance. We can look at the strengths and weaknesses of kids and really work on them from high school down to Squirts. It makes an enormous difference because I get to know kids now that are my son's age.

"The second thing is our strength is night and day difference. We tested (the first week of practice). Our strength numbers were phenomenal and a big reason was the work of (assistant coach) Dave Stengrim. He took that on this summer. Without question there's a huge improvement there.

"The third thing is the leadership council. That's maybe as important or more so than the other two. We spent time in the offseason planning, trying to develop the culture of our team, which is definitely something that had to be changed from where it was a year ago. We put more of an onus on our players to develop the team they want rather than it being me dictating what's going to happen. I think it's important to give kids responsibility and leadership.


"It's been a lot of work but it's been a lot of fun. It's re-energized me as a coach. You really get to know your kids in the offseason. If you're only with them a few months, it's tough to develop relationships. When you're able to do the things we did in the summer, I think it makes us all better."

Aus met with his team after the first week of practice and conveyed to players that he's as excited for this season to start (5 p.m. Saturday at Buffalo) as he's been in any other year he's been a head coach.

"I'm looking forward to seeing where we're at, dealing with the ups and downs of the season," he said. "I think all of our coaches feel exactly the same way as I do. We got brand new uniforms, which is neat for the kids, and we've had a lot of cool things happen. It's just building off that. Now it's up to the kids to step up and do their part."

A position-by-position look at the Warriors:

Goaltending: Senior Brady Mick begins his third season as a starter. Last year he was 8-15-1 in the regular season with a 3.75 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. In two playoff games, he was 1-1-0 with a 4.0 GAA and .892 save percentage.

Aus hopes Mick is motivated by the fact he wasn't selected to play in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League or in a USA Hockey Spring Festival for age 18s.

"He's really athletic, really tough mentally," Aus said. "Those things along with size - he doesn't have great size - he's got two of those three things going for him. He's got a lot of really good attributes for a goaltender. I've had a lot of good goalies over the years. I'm not sure I've had any better than him."

Juniors James Engen and Jakob Ebinger and sophomore Colin Kleffman are competing to back up Mick.


"James Engen right now I think is the next best guy," Aus said. "We're going to play him at some point. I don't know how much but we need to play him because we're going to be pretty good a year from now. If he's going to be the guy, we need to get him a little experience.
"Ebinger and Kleffman we're a little bit more unsure about. Ebby had a knee blow out a year ago so he really didn't play - it's like we're getting a new player there. Kleffman played on the Bantam A team and had a very good year. He's very athletic. I really like Colin a lot. I think he's got good potential."

Defense: Seniors Landon "Happy" Rivard and Colton Kramer and junior Mitchell Andres return on the blue line.

Rivard, a senior captain, enters his third year as a starter. In 27 games last winter, he had one goal and eight assists with 33 hits and 10 blocked shots.

"Happy's just got a real good demeanor for leading guys. They look up to him," Aus said. "He doesn't say a lot. He just leads by his play."

Kramer played in 25 games and scored a goal with 34 hits and seven blocked shots.

"He's just developed into a fine young man," Aus said. "He's a guy I really feel comfortable in talking with and getting to feel the pulse of the team."

Mitchell Andres suffered a femur injury and played in just 13 games last year. He collected a goal and two assists with 30 hits and two blocked shots. Then he suffered a broken ankle during the first week of Brainerd's summer camp.

"He's a little bit like Ebinger, like we have a transfer," Aus said. "He's a kid we never really got a good look at. From seeing him early on, he's gifted. He can skate, he can shoot. He's got a long way to go because he just hasn't had a ton of experience at this level because of injuries."


Others in competition to be in the top seven are juniors Luke Wiskow and Billy Kendall, sophomore Luke Johnson and freshman Gavin Andres. Wiskow played in 13 games and Kendall in three.

Forward: Seniors Josh Howieson and Eric Stout, the team's top two scorers a year ago, return. Howieson collected 10 goals and 10 assists, Stout 7 and 11. Senior Cole Ball, who had nine goals and four assists, is also back. Ball played in the UMHSEL this fall.

"If those guys have good years offensively, we'll have a pretty good year," Aus said. "It's a little bit of weight on them, but those have to be the guys that carry us. Cole had a good experience in the fall. That needs to translate into our season."

Stout also tried out for the UMHSEL but was not selected.

"He's another guy in the offseason who just improved night and day by doing the stuff we asked him to do," Aus said. "He will have a good year. He's another guy who could use (not making the UMHSEL) as motivation."

Sophomore Matt Fischer will center Ball and Howieson.

"He's going to be a lights-out player before he's done," Aus said of Fischer. "He will help Cole. Cole can score but he's got to have the right guy who can get him the puck.
"It's an interesting line because (Ball and Fischer) can fly, they can flat-out skate. Fischer sees the rink probably better than anyone we've got. When you've got two guys like Howie and Ball who can shoot, they will be effective."

Stout will be on a line with sophomore Jack Evans and junior Seth Desrocher who played in 23 games.


"We scrimmaged (Dec. 14) against Spring Lake Park - there was such a difference from a year ago," Aus said. "The puck movement, the opportunities - I think we scored 10 goals in the scrimmage. A big part of that was those two lines."

The third line will consist of Dylan McLain centering senior Sam Selisker and junior Justin Marthaler. McLain collected four assists in 17 games. Selisker contributed two goals and three assists. Marthaler played in six games.

"Dylan's another guy who has a boatload of potential because he's huge, can handle the puck, he can shoot," Aus said.

Senior Andrew Muesing will see playing time. He played in nine games a year ago.

"Our depth - it's a night and day difference from a year ago," Aus said. "Our schedule is tougher. We're going to lose some games during the year but I think if things roll along the way we hope they do, we could be pretty dangerous at the end of the year."

Warriors roster

James Engen, G, JR

Jared Marthaler, F, SO


Justin Marthaler, F, JR

Luke Johnson, D, SO

Landon Rivard, D, SR

Nate King, F, SO

Gavin Andres, D, FR

Seth Desrocher, F, JR

Andrew Muesing, F, SR

Brenden Stay, F, SR

Jack Evans, F, SO

Cole Ball, F, SR

Eric Stout, F, SR

Colton Kramer, D, SR

Sam Selisker, F, SR

Josh Howieson, F, SR

Billy Kendall, D, JR

Luke Wiskow, D, JR

Mitch Andres, D, JR

Sam Olson, D, JR

Ryan Miller, F, JR

Taylor George, F, SO

Jake Hodge, F, SO

Kyle Weiss, D, JR

Jared Erickson, F, SO

Dylan McLain, F, JR

Matt Fischer, F, SO

Riley Johnson, F, SO

Jakob Ebinger, G, JR

Colin Kleffman, G, SO

Brady Mick, G, SR

Hunter Wicklund, F, SO

Nick Karsnia, F, SO

Hunter Erickson, D, SO

Tanner Larson, D, SO

Eli Sundquist, F, SO

Warriors schedule

Nov 28, at Buffalo 5 p.m.

Dec 1, at Fergus Falls 7:15 p.m.

Dec 3, Sartell 7:15 p.m.

Dec 5, at Bloomington Jefferson 3 p.m.

Dec 15, at Alexandria 7:30 p.m.

Dec 19, at Bemidji 3 p.m.

Dec 22, Moorhead 7:30 p.m.

Dec 28, at Hibbing 7:30 p.m.

Dec 29, at Virginia 7:30 p.m.

Dec 30, at Grand Rapids 3 p.m.

Jan 5, St. Cloud Apollo 7:15 p.m.

Jan 9, at Roseau 2:15 p.m.

Jan 12, St. Cloud Tech at SCSU 7:15 p.m.

Jan 14, at Moorhead 7:30 p.m.

Jan 16, Duluth Marshall 3 p.m.

Jan 19, at Sartell 7:15 p.m.

Jan 21, Willmar 5:15 p.m.

Jan 23, Roseau 2:15 p.m.

Jan 26, Sauk Rapids-Rice 7:15 p.m.

Jan 28, Alexandria 7:15 p.m.

Jan 30, at Centennial 7 p.m.

Feb 2, Bemidji 7:15 p.m.

Feb 4, at St. Cloud Apollo 7:15 p.m.

Feb 5, Hermantown 7:15 p.m.

Feb 9, at River Lakes 7:15 p.m.

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at or 218-855-5861. Follow on Twitter at .

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