Coming into his second season, Warriors head coach Jack Freeman is excited to see how dynamic his young team can be.
“I’m just excited for the opportunity that our younger players are going to get,” Freeman said. “We were a pretty veteran-heavy team last year. We felt like we had some good young talent behind those veterans and I’m excited to see them get some varsity time on a more regular basis.”
The veteran-heavy 2019-20 squad saw its season end in the Section 8-2A finals with a 6-3 loss to Roseau and finish with a 17-10-1 record. Gone are leading point-getters Gabbie Smith, Josie Kramer, Lindsay Booth and Sophie Robinson.
“We know we have big shoes to fill,” Freeman said. “We also are very excited about our young group.”
Not so young are senior captains Emma Booth and Taylor Larson. Booth scored six goals and tallied eight assists in 14 games last year. Larson anchored the defense and netted six goals to go along with 15 assists.
“The experience that Taylor and Emma have is invaluable,” Freeman said. “They have played in four section finals the past four years. We will lean on that experience and leadership for sure. We also return 13 letterwinners, so we have experience.”
Booth is expected to lead the offense. She did battle injury last year which is why she only appeared in 14 games.
“She’ll set the pace for us upfront for sure,” Freeman said. “One of the tough things for us last year was she was hurt and boy do we miss her when she’s out. We are expecting big things from her and that’s not to put pressure on her.”
Aside from Booth, Freeman expects Brainerd to score by committee like last year.
“We are going to need scoring from multiple kids and we are going to need scoring from multiple lines,” Freeman said. “We are a team that is built on hard work and that is going to take everybody.”
On defense, Larson will be accompanied by freshman Molly Pohlkamp.
“She’s been our rock back there along with Sophie Robertson,” Freeman said of Larson. “(Larson) is one of the better defenders in the state. We have Lucy Peterson coming back and Riah Stroot who was a letterwinner last year. Stroot will take on a much bigger role as well as Reagan Aus.”
The sophomore duo of Breyna Sawyer and Emily Johnson will be in net for the Warriors. Johnson played eight games last year and finished with a 6-1-1 record and a 90.7 save percentage. Sawyer played in 18 games with a 9-8 record and a 90.4 save percentage.
“Both are incredibly athletic and both are very competitive,” Freeman said. “That’s the foundation that we have between the pipes. They both have had their first taste of varsity hockey last year, and I think this year they will be that much better.”
Just because the team is young with only seven juniors and seniors, Freeman thinks they have a good foundation to build on.
“Last year was my first year and I had to learn what I was coming into,” he said. “We had a lot of veteran leadership and I think there was a lot of knowns. This year, there is a lot of competition for ice time which I think is good. I think there are a lot of girls who are hungry from last year.”
Looking at the 18-game regular season, Freeman tries to control what he can control. No metro teams are on the schedule, but Section 8-2A champion Roseau is.
“We aren’t able to play that metro schedule like we used to, but we know we still have some high-level competition that we are playing in the north,” Freeman said. “We have Roseau on there twice and they are section champs. It’s always good when Brainerd and Roseau play.”
Freeman feels more comfortable as he starts his second season. He thinks his second line of Peyton and Avery LeMieur and Molly Hagelie is really going to surprise some teams this year.
“They really started to come on strong at the end of last year,” Freeman said. “They have a lot of chemistry and played a lot of junior varsity hockey together.”
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.
Freshman: Brooke Adamek, Elsa Borchert, Grace Cooper, Mercedes Engstrom, Hazel Kosek, Peyton LeMieur, Olivia Miller, Hannah Neuwirth, Molly Pohlkamp, Addison Rekstad, Brenna Schultz, Ashlyn Stroot, Julia Wheeler, Abby Woog
Sophomore: Kendra Couture, Sam Galbadores, Molly Hagelie, Emily Johnson, Josie Kappes, Lucy Peterson, Macy Peterson, Breya Sawyer, Sienna Swanberg
Junior: Reagan Aus, Brynne Folden, Avery LeMieur, Riah Stroot
Senior: Emma Booth, Taylor Larson, Serena White
Thursday, Jan. 14: hosts St. Cloud, 7:15 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 15: at Roseau, 6 p.m.
Thursday, Jan 21: hosts Rocori, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 28: hosts Bemidji, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 2: hosts Grand Rapids, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 9: hosts Moorhead, 6 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 11: at Alexandria, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 16: hosts Sartell/Sauk Rapids, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 18: at St. Cloud, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 23: at Fergus Falls, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 25: at Rocori, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, March 2: hosts Willmar, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, March 4: at Bemidji, 7:15 p.m.
Saturday, March 6: hosts Buffalo, 3 p.m.
Monday, March 8: at Moorhead, 6 p.m.
Thursday, March 11: hosts Alexandria, 7:15 p.m.
Saturday, March 13: hosts Roseau, 1 p.m.
2020-2021 Girls hockey
Head coach: Jack Freeman, 7th year (2nd with Warriors, 3 years River Lakes Girls, 2 River Lakes boys)
2019-20 record: 7-1 CLC, 17-10-1 overall, CLC champion, Section 8-2A runner-up
Captains: Emma Booth, Taylor Larson
Assistant coaches: Sandy Smith, Carl Sneep, Alex Citrowske, Tate Rusk, Landon Snider