By Bob San
Sun Press Newspapers
The horrendous winter was not the only obstacle the Maple Grove CI adapted floor hockey team had to contend with when the season began.
With all the weather closings and cancellations due to gas leak at Maple Grove High, the team had missed numerous practices. In fact, the Crimson had played more games than they had practices thus far.
On top of that, the Crimson lost three key players (one decided not to play, the other went out for musical and one moved to St. Paul). As a result, the team has just seven returning players and three newcomers to the program. It was a difficult start but coach Kelli Waalk said the team has persevered.
“It’s been a race to figure out the pieces of the puzzle, but the team is coming along real well,” Waalk said.
Waalk has experience dealing with a small team. This past fall season, she coached the CI adapted soccer team to the state championship game with a roster of nine players.
“As this team proved during the soccer season, it’s not about how many players a team has. It’s about how hard players work at practice and how much they improve during the season,” Waalk said. “To earn a conference championship and place second at state with only nine players is an incredible accomplishment and a testament to the amazing kids on the team. Despite having only one returning starter this hockey season, the coaches expect the successes from the fall soccer season to continue during floor hockey. We aim to finish near the top of the conference in hockey and qualify for their 17th trip to the state tournament.”
Maple Grove is led by four-year starter Tasha Feigh. She anchors the defense, plays a couple shifts on center each game, and is the team’s back-up goalie.
“Tasha is the lone returning starter and the most versatile player on the team,” Waalk said
Though Feigh is a defensive specialist, she can play any position needed and does so at the highest level. Despite playing on a co-ed team, she more than holds her own against the guys.
“Her nickname is “Bulldozer” and it is well earned,” Waalk said. “Tasha set a new team record for career assists during the soccer season and is on pace to set a new team record for career assists in floor hockey as well.”
The current record of 124 is held by Christian Brown. Feigh started the season with 97 assists and has already added 15 more assists to her total through the first four games of the season.
Reserves Aaron Clark, Jason Robins, Paige Faber have all moved from the bench into the starting line-up this year. Clark teams with Feigh to anchor one of the toughest defenses in the conference. Robins has padded-up and moved to net. Paige Faber has also earned a starting spot this year as a forward on the team’s first line. Alex Kreidler, Megan Thompson, and Austin Rohach are the other returning players.
Jeremiah Kennedy and Marc Brazille are both newcomers to the program.
“Though neither one has played hockey, they both have incredible athletic ability and are quickly learning the skills,” Waalk said. “Both players have cracked the starting line-up, Kennedy at center and Brazille at wing.”
Cole Brambilla is the other new player on the Crimson roster.
Feigh and Rohach are team captains. Alumni Andy Brown and Sammy Veopradith have returned to help coach the team this year. Kirby Gilbertson also volunteers time with the team and serves as the second goalie during practices.
The young Crimson were hampered by the lousy winter as cold weather closings have caused most of their practices to be cancelled.
“We had a lot of holes to fill and only two practices before our first game,” Waalk said.
The Crimson took some early lumps. They opened the season at home with a 12-7 loss to Anoka. Kreidler, and Brambilla scored goals for Maple Grove, while Feigh dished-out five assists.
Maple Grove then lost 11-2 to defending state champ North Suburban. Clark scored twice and Faber and Kennedy played incredibly well and moved into the starting line-up.
Things started to turn for the better as they beat White Bear Lake 9-3 Feb. 5. Six different players scored goals as the Crimson earned their first win of the season. Kreidler led with three goals and Faber added two more. Brazille, Kennedy, Rohach, and Clark each scored a goal. Feigh and Kennedy each dished-out four assists.
The team took another step forward in their 12-4 home win over Wayzata/Minnetonka Feb. 6. Brazille scored Maple Grove’s first goal 27 seconds in and the team never looked back as seven players scored goals. Brazille scored the hat trick in the second period and added his fourth goal late in the game. Faber also scored a pair of goals. Kennedy dished-out seven assists while Feigh added six of her own. Rohach, Kreidler, Brambilla, Clark, and Kennedy rounded out the team’s scoring.
The Crimson have four more games before they finally get to have a practice. The Crimson next traveled to St. Cloud for its seventh game in a row Wednesday, Feb. 12.
“The coaches are exhausted just thinking about it, but the players are excited,” Waalk said. “The kids would rather play games than practice anyway so this crazy schedule has been perfect for their liking.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]