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Hockey: Northern Lakes welcomes new coaches to girls and boys programs

Northern Lakes hires hockey coaches for both girls' and boys' programs.

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There will be a new coach on both benches for Northern Lakes hockey this winter.

Erik Vetsch was hired as the new boys’ hockey coach for the Lightning, while Bryan Boreen will coach the Lightning girls.

Both coaches moved from the Twin Cities where they coached hockey for decades.

Vetsch takes over a boys’ program which made its first state tournament two seasons ago

Erik Vetsch
Erik Vetsch

“There’s a lot that’s involved with this for me especially,” Vetsch said. “I dropped my son off to college this year and now me and my wife are empty nesters this year. We wanted to get up to this area and part of it is the allure of a growing hockey community in the area. If you think about it, the Pequot, Breezy area with Crosby involved, hockey has grown a little bit. It’s kind of a new experience and something I’m looking for in my life.”

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Prior to coming to Northern Lakes, Vetsch served as the head coach for Hopkins as well as being an assistant for Edina and Bloomington-Kennedy.

“As coaches, you are kind of a plagiarist, so you learn a lot when you start out,” Vetsch said. “I worked with a lot of great coaches and you just learn as you go and you learn what success brings. You have to have talent in the locker room, but at the same time, if you have hard work and skill you can take kids a long way.”

Last season, the Lightning boys went 15-12 and fell short of a second straight state appearance in the Section 6-1A semifinals.

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“It’s going to be fun,” Vetsch said. “I think they are going to do what it takes. When you have success and you’ve gotten somewhere and then you miss out on it the next year that happens. Everyone thinks it’s easy to win and it’s not. It’s making sure you bring the kids together at the right time and I haven’t even met most of these kids yet, but I know there’s a lot of talent in the area.”

Vetsch teaches social studies in the Pine River-Backus school district.

Pequot Lakes activities director Byron Westrich, who helped hire both coaches, is excited about what Vetsch brings to the boys’ program.

“He’s been in that hockey world and understands our teams have been successful the last few years,” Westrich said. “So we are excited about our future.”

Boreen comes from Woodbury where he coached the junior varsity team for 15 years.

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What drew Boreen to the Northern Lakes job was his family already having a lake room in the area.

Bryan Boreen
Bryan Boreen

“After COVID happened, we did some distance teaching from up there and I realized it could be a full-time deal,” Boreen said. “So I looked for jobs around here and landed in Pequot and they needed a coach. I have 15 years coaching at Woodbury and it just fit really nicely to be here.”

Boreen is teaching science at Pequot Lakes. Around 20 years ago, when New Prague started its girls’ program Boreen served as head coach.

“I was with them for two years,” he said.

What excites Boreen most about being the Northern Lakes coach is the depth he feels the program has. Last season, the Lightning went 15-11-1 and reached the Section 6-1A semifinals.

Boreen has had team gatherings at his house and has already met most of his players for the upcoming winter.

“I just want to give the girls a good experience,” Boreen said. “Keep them organized and involved both at school and at the rink. I want to build the program the way they want it to be built and give them the opportunity to have success. I think it’ll be very fun to watch.

“We’ve got a good group of high school girls and a really good group of freshman and eighth graders coming up that will be a part of our jv team. Our depth is our biggest strength in building a program for the next four or five years.”

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Westrich said Boreen connected with the players during the interview process and added they were lucky to find him.

“We had a meeting before school was out in May and the girls were just so excited listening to 15 minutes of his talking points,” Westrich said. “So they are excited about what he brings and he’s had a couple of lake days at his place, so there’s already been a connection starting there.”

Westrich is pleased with both hires.

“They both bring a wealth of experience, so we are very excited for our Northern Lakes hockey programs to have such veteran staff members,” he said.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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