Girls Hockey: Warriors' goal to be competitive in Section 8-2A

Girls hockey Head coach: Jim Ernster seventh season (2002-03 through 2006-07, 2014-15) Career record: 71-74-7 (.490) 2014-15 record: 4-7-0 CLC, 9-16-0 overall Captains: Maddie Ellingson, Brooke Mimmack Assistant coaches: Toby Kvalevog, Taylor Dem...

Girls hockey

Head coach: Jim Ernster seventh season (2002-03 through 2006-07, 2014-15)

Career record: 71-74-7 (.490)

2014-15 record: 4-7-0 CLC, 9-16-0 overall

Captains: Maddie Ellingson, Brooke Mimmack


Assistant coaches: Toby Kvalevog, Taylor Demuth, Whitney Joyce, Todd Dahl, Sandy Smith

In order for the Brainerd Warriors' program to continue making progress, it has to begin beating or at least competing with teams in the upper echelon of Section 8-2A.

Head coach Jim Ernster hopes the climb to respectability begins this season, which opens at 7:15 p.m. Thursday against North Wright County at Essentia Health Sports Center in Brainerd.

"I think the thing that matters, at least to our staff, is to be competitive in our section," Ernster said. "Fortunately our conference is heavily tied into our section. What we need to do to take a step forward as a program, and these girls can help us do that, is to beat some of those big teams in Section 8. That includes North Wright County Thursday, that includes Roseau, (defending champion) Buffalo, Bemidji, Moorhead - that's what we have to do to take a step forward as a program. These girls can certainly help us do that because they're such tremendous young ladies."

Brainerd returns its top four scorers from a year ago, its top five defensemen and its No. 1 goalie, facts that should produce a better record than a year ago. Last season, the Warriors finished 4-7-0 in the Central Lakes Conference, 9-16-0 overall.

"Wins and losses are going to take care of themselves," said Ernster, who's in his second year of his second term as head coach. "What we're still trying to do, in Year Two, is create a culture like the girls have started to do. That includes working hard in practice, working hard off the ice, being disciplined on the ice, being disciplined off the ice. All that stuff allows you to work on things day in and day out in practice that will help you be successful in games and set you up to be successful.

"The byproduct of all that is winning. All those little things lead to wins. You can't look ahead and say you want to win X amount of games. It's the process that you go through that will put you in position to win games."

A position by position look at the Warriors:


Goalie: Olivia King is back after starting all 25 games last season as an eighth-grader. In the regular season, King compiled a 3.51 goals-against average and .871 save percentage.

"We expect Olivia to continue to grow into the position," Ernster said. "Goaltending is probably one of the tougher positions to play at the varsity level as young as she started. Having a year under her belt should make her that much more comfortable, be able to flow a little more and react some more. As opposed to constantly thinking am I doing this right, am I doing that right, she can just be more athletic."

Forward: Leading scorer Ally Smith heads this position group. She scored 23 goals and added seven assists last winter.

"Ally worked hard this summer," Ernster said. "She's just very athletic. That allows her to be dynamic in a lot of different ways. Because she's so athletic it's tough for teams to contain her. Some kids have various strengths - whether it's stickhandling, shooting, skating - Ally is just good at all that stuff. It's tough for teams to say we're going to limit this by doing this. You just can't do that with Ally."

Maddie Ellingson contributed nine goals and 20 points. Brooke Mimmack added four goals and 11 points and Megan Tschida four goals and 10 points.

"Our forward level is a lot deeper," Ernster said. "We had some scrimmages Saturday and we legitimately can run three lines. That's pretty rare in girls hockey. Most teams can go two. We feel very comfortable rolling three lines the majority of any game. We're confident with any of the girls out there."

Ellingson and Mimmack are the captains.

"We have good veteran leadership from Brooke and Maddie," Ernster said. "The key is to have the older girls be able to calm the waters when need be, then inject that enthusiasm the younger girls bring day in and day out.


"These girls are high-character girls ... they work hard, they're disciplined. If you can do those two things in any sport, that opens up the possibility to have success more often than not."

Defense: Starters Ellie Riitters, Kennedy Rusk, Grace Schulte, Mara Roberts and Elaina Christiansen are back. Rusk collected four goals and six points, Schulte one goal and four points, Roberts three goals and four points and Christiansen and Riitters each earned two assists.

"Ellie really came on and had a strong second half of the season," Ernster said. "Grace is a dynamic player. She's only a sophomore. She skates well. I don't know if you can find a defenseman who skates as well as she does. She plays with a lot of poise. She's fun to watch.

"All of our defensemen will log a lot of ice time and we have confidence in all five. All will be able play for us in every situation - power play, penalty kill. If there's 30 seconds left, it won't matter which of the five are out there. They're all just quality defensemen."

Warriors roster

Eighth grade: Gabby Smith F

Freshmen: Olivia King G, Cheyenne Abear F, Abby Pohlkamp F

Sophomores: Elisha Burnard F, Cregyn Demarce F, Logan Linhardt F, Cambria Venne F, Melissa Anez D, Sydney Berg F, Gretchen Brau F, Elaina Christiansen D, Katie Orth F, Grace Schulte D


Juniors: Mara Roberts D, Kennedy Rusk D, Allyson Smith F, Abigail Thelen F, Megan Tschida F, Brooke Watland F, Halee Reichenbach F, Kiera Schweitzberger F

Seniors: Ellie Riitters D, Brooke Mimmack F, Maddie Ellingson F, Calihan Yliniemi F

Warriors schedule

Nov 5, North Wright County 7:15 p.m.

Nov 7, at Cloquet 3 p.m.

Nov 10, at St. Cloud Ice Breakers 7:15 p.m.

Nov 13, vs. River Lakes at Little Falls

Nov 14, Princeton 3 p.m.


Nov 19, Moorhead 7:15 p.m.

Nov 21, at Crookston 3 p.m.

Nov 24, at St. Francis 7 p.m.

Nov 28, Minnetonka 3 p.m.

Dec 1, at Fergus Falls 5:30 p.m.

Dec 3, at Sartell/Sauk Rapids 7:15 p.m.

Dec 8, at Grand Rapids 7:15 p.m.

Dec 11, Thief River Falls 7:15 p.m.


Dec 15, at Alexandria 5:15 p.m.

Dec 18, at Roseau 7:15 p.m.

Dec 19, at Bemidji 1 p.m.

Dec 22, at Moorhead 7:15 p.m.

Jan 5, St. Cloud Ice Breakers 5:15 P.M.

Jan 7, at River Lakes 7:15 p.m.

Jan 12, at Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 7:30 p.m.

Jan 14, Fergus Falls 7:15 p.m.

Jan 15, Bemidji 7:15 p.m.

Jan 19, Sartell/Sauk Rapids 7:15 p.m.

Jan 21, Willmar 7:15 p.m.

Jan 28, Alexandria 5:15 p.m.

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

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