In Dave Aus’s long coaching tenure, he doesn’t believe he’s ever had a defensemen lead his team in scoring.
That could change this season as junior defenseman Eric Pohlkamp is leading the Brainerd Warriors boys hockey team in goals and points.
The three-year varsity player has tallied 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points, seven more than the next closest player.
“It’s pretty typical to have your defenseman lead you in scoring, which he is going to do,” Aus said with a chuckle. “I’m about 100% certain that has never happened for me before so for that to happen is pretty rare. He’s one of our captains and he leads more so by his compete-level and his work ethic and that's always been really solid. He’s just a really good all-around player.
“He does gamble and he does get himself in trouble a little bit with that, but he’s gotten better lately of being wiser in terms of when he jumps up and joins the offense. The other reason he has is he plays on the power play and so he’s getting points there. Then he shoots really tremendously well. That, coupled with the fact that he’s really strong and powerful, is probably why he is our leading scorer.”
Aus compared Pohlkamp to a semi-truck when he gets the puck and is barreling down the ice. He said few 18 year olds want to get in his way.
Of Pohlkamp’s 22 points, he’s posted four power-play goals and three power-play assists. He’s also registered two game-winning goals.
“I like to play offense and defense so I like to jump up on the rush,” Pohlkamp said. “Obviously, who doesn’t like to score goals. I like to be on the rush and I score a few goals on the power play so I like to be on the power play a lot. I like to call myself an offensive defenseman.”
In Brainerd’s 7-0 Central Lakes Conference blowout of Willmar March 2, Pohlkamp recorded one goal and two assists. He tallied an assist in Brainerd’s 5-2 loss to Bemidji March 4, but rebounded with two goals and an assist in the Warriors 3-2 victory over Sartell March 5.
“It was our last home game and we knew Sartell was a tough team,” Pohlkamp said. “We came in and we were ready to play.
“The first goal, Andrew Zuk took a shot on net and I was looking for a tip. I actually caught the pass and moved it to my backhand and shot right between the goalie’s shoulder top shelf. My other goal, we had a 3-on-2 going down and Max (Roby) was the first guy in and dropped it to me and I just took a slapshot low blocker.”
WILLMAR GAME; Boys Hockey: Warriors make quick work of Willmar
Aus said Pohlkamp has a good hockey IQ and a lot of that was from watching and playing against his older brothers. What he praised the most about Pohlkamp is his work ethic and willingness to work on his game by himself without anyone around.
“He’s my neighbor and we have Oscar Kristoferson rink right across the road and he is there in every free hour he has,” Aus said. “His dad has mentioned to me that he thinks it’s almost therapeutic for him to be over there skating. You pick up a lot of good habits and positive skills by just skating by yourself or jumping into little games with other people.
“Since I’ve moved here, he’s been a staple at that rink. He’s really consumed himself with being the best hockey player he can be. It’s a good lesson for other kids. I would not have a better example of a hard-working kid than him. He’s just really driven.”
Polkamp was Brainerd’s fourth-leading scorer as a sophomore. He tallied 11 goals and 24 points. Again, he did most of his damage in special teams as he recorded five power-play goals and five power-play assists.
“My expectations for the season were I knew I had to step up because I played my freshman year and I’m a three-year vet,” Pohlkamp said. “I knew I had to step up and be that bigger guy. I’ve been focused on my skill and my defense and just trying to be a better teammate, better person and trying to be a leader.”
Pohlkamp said, while the game has slowed down for him, things aren’t any easier as opposing teams have made stopping him a priority. He said he noticed the extra attention even as a freshman.
During his first year on the varsity, Pohlkamp posted 10 points on three goals and seven assists. He recorded two power-play assists.
“I actually played in the Elite League for fall hockey and had some camps in the summer and skating on the outdoor rinks a ton,” Pohlkamp said when asked how he prepared for the upcoming season. “I’m just trying every day to get better. I’ve been working on my speed and getting my head up a little more often and hands obviously. Then just overall being a better teammate.
“The elite league is unbelievable. You get the top player from each team broken down into an eight-team league. Actually, I made an all-star team and we played in a tournament and you play with unbelievable players. It makes you such a better player.”
One of Pohlkamp’s biggest improvements said Aus was the junior’s restraint.
“He’s so big and strong that when he would take a run at a guy he would get called all the time,” Aus said. “Even as a freshman, he was taken two or three penalties. Quite honestly, I got on him in Duluth during the Christmas tournament of his ninth-grade year. We were at Duluth Marshall and he took his third (penalty) and I got on him pretty good and it has never been an issue since. He heard the message and got it.”
The ultimate goal for Pohlkamp and many other Warriors is to reach the NHL like former Warriors Josh Archibald or Cole Smith. Pohlkamp said it is motivating watching those and other former Warriors working their way up the ranks.
“That’s awesome,” Pohlkamp said. “Brainerd alumni are great people and great leaders. They are great hockey players and they motivate me, even more, to become a great hockey player just like them.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Other notable performances
Maddy Sedlachek, gymnastics, tied for the uneven bars title and was second in the all-around against Fergus Falls and won the beam and the all-around against Willmar.
Kenna Smith, gymnastics, posted a winning 9.15 on floor against Fergus Falls and won the floor against Willmar with a 9.4.
Lily Schaeffer, girls Nordic skiing, won the Section 8 title in 28:35.51.
Easton Dircks, Wrestling, finished 4-0 with three pins last week.
Cade Ostrowski, wrestling, finished 2-0 with two pins last week.
Kyle Eschenbacher, wrestling, finished 4-0 with one pin last week.
Isaiah Jillson, wrestling, finished 4-0 with two pins last week.
Gabe Wagner, wrestling, finished 4-0 with four pins last week.
Forrest Gibson, wrestling, finished 4-0 with one pin last week.
Macy Peterson, girls hockey, finished with two goals and two assists against Willmar and a goal and an assist against Bemidji.
Emma Booth, girls hockey, finished with two goals and an assist against Willmar and one goal each against Bemidji and Buffalo.
Meghan Smith, girls basketball, finished with 22 points against Sauk Rapids.
Career highlight: Beating Duluth East 3-2 during his freshman year
Grade-point average: 3.1
Favorite class: Decoy design
Favorite food: Chick-fil-A sandwich
Favorite movie: “Creed 2”
Favorite TV show: “SpongeBob SquarePants”
Favorite website or app: “On the Pond” podcasts
Favorite restaurant: Chipotle Mexican Grill
Future plans: Play junior and college hockey
Favorite athlete: Michael Jordan
Parents: Mary and Joe Pohlkamp