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Warriors Athlete of Week: First-year goalie thrived in new position

Zachary Denny Sport: Adapted floor hockey Position: Goalie Year: Sophomore Age: 16 Height: 5-2 Career highlight: Being selected to all-state tournament team Other sports: Baseball Favorite class: Decoy Design Favorite food: Pizza, tacos Favorite ...

Brainerd’s Zach Denny defends the goal during a regular season game at Riverside School in Brainerd. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)
Brainerd’s Zach Denny defends the goal during a regular season game at Riverside School in Brainerd. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

Zachary Denny

Sport: Adapted floor hockey

Position: Goalie

Year: Sophomore

Age: 16

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Height: 5-2

Career highlight: Being selected to all-state tournament team

Other sports: Baseball

Favorite class: Decoy Design

Favorite food: Pizza, tacos

Favorite movie: "Avatar"

Favorite TV show: "Cops"

Favorite website: "Facebook"

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Hobbies: Fishing, hunting

Future plans: Attend college, become welder

Favorite athlete: T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Nic Jelacie

Parents: Brad Denny, Kandee Denny

When Harlee Annable graduated following last season, the Brainerd Warriors adapted floor hockey team was searching to find a replacement in goal.

Up stepped Zachary Denny.

Despite never having played the position before Denny filled the bill and became a standout this season. In eight regular-season games, he compiled a 7-1-0 record with an 83-percent save percentage. His only regular-season loss was to 4-time defending state champion Robbinsdale.

In three state tournament games last week, Denny went 2-1-0 with an 85-percent save percentage and helped the Warriors to third place for the second consecutive year. For his state tournament efforts, Denny was named to the all-tournament team.

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"For the whole season, I had a pretty good save percentage," Denny said through an interpreter. "Coach (Todd Person) said the other (coaches) were saying 'Wow look at that goalie. He's pretty good.'

"I was surprised, excited and happy getting named to the all-tournament team."

For the first time in program history, Brainerd opened this season with eight straight victories. The Warriors then lost to Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka 4-3 and finished the regular season with a 7-2 win over Mounds View.

The Warriors earned the No. 1 seed in the North Division and were hoping to capture the state championship.

"We were disappointed to not win the title. but third place is good. too," Denny said.

Denny, whose second cousin is T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues, had played defense in two previous years with the Warriors, but made a smooth transition to the crease.

"He's an athletic boy," Person said. "Part of the reason we had him back on defense was because he had done a nice job of shutting things down. We struggled to find somebody that had the hand-eye coordination to play the goalie position.

"We tried him for a period in our third game and he did really well. Pretty much after that he played a period or two in every game and in big games he played the whole thing.

"When we asked him to go back in goal, he never argued or said I don't want to do that. He knew what the team needed at that time. It was nice that he stepped into that role and accepted it and excelled at it."

Denny said it was somewhat of an adjustment to play goal in a wheelchair.

"It was a little bit hard because I had to get used to moving," he said. "You have to learn to move side to side then back and forth."

Person said Denny's athleticism helped.

"Zach is surprisingly quick in spinning his chair from one side to the other if they're trying to get a wraparound. Usually he's there to shut that down," Person said.

In the state quarterfinals, Denny blocked 13 of 15 shots in a 10-2 win over St. Paul Highland Park.

Against Anoka-Hennepin, a 4-1 loss in the state semifinals, Denny made 13 saves.

"In the first period, I did pretty good, but then they got their first goal," he said. "It was up in the corner of the net. I missed it with the glove. I was off to the other side and I didn't move fast enough to get that shot. Their wings were shooting so that's where the shots were coming from."

He stopped 14 of 15 shots in an 8-1 win over South No. 1 seed Rochester in the third-place game.

"I had a pretty good game. I saved a lot of shots in that game," Denny said. "They kind of kept them low. They only had one goal in that game so I was pretty good on the save percentage."

Person said Denny faced more shots in the state tournament than he typically did during a regular-season game.

"When we got to state he was seeing around 15 to 20 shots a game," Person said. "It's a lot more work when you get down there than what he was used to in the regular season, but Zach really responded well. He didn't give up a whole lot of rebounds.

"He's fast at covering the puck and getting it under his feet or his stick. He doesn't allow a lot of rebounds."

Other notable efforts:

• Brock Saatzer, floor hockey, accumulated four goals and two assists in the state tournament and was named to the all-tournament team.

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

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