A brand new Breck
Mustangs seek a fresh perspective and a change in culture after a tough 2021
Sunday, November 14, 2021
After three consecutive years of winning the 1A state championship, the strength of the Breck Mustangs was put to the test during their 2021 season. Due to a sudden change in coaching, the Mustangs struggled, as the team lost eight consecutive games at the end of their 2021 season. With only six returning players, this year’s Breck girls hockey captains have a lot on their plate, in terms of rebuilding their team and leaving a legacy for the younger players.
Breck tri captains (L to R) Payton Berman, Belle Kelly and Aiko Sims
As last year’s season came to a close, a section semi-final loss against Chisago Lakes was the last game for many of their top players, including seniors Sadie Lindsay and Emily Zumwinkle. Both now play for the Minnesota Gophers. Additionally, seven other team members, including Gopher commits Ava Lindsay and Ellie Klepinger, were lost to teams like Minnetonka, Holy Angels, Stillwater, and Blake.
A concern among players arose following the aforementioned eight-game losing streak against mostly 2A teams. This added to players' doubts of Breck’s future success in Class 1A, which caused many players to transfer. The sudden loss of the head coach, Steve Persian, added to this concern. Persian coached the Breck team for two years prior, but left midseason, after struggling to balance parental involvement with his duties to the whole team. The effect of his loss was significant. The 2021 season ended with no head coach and eight players looking at new schools.
This year, Breck’s hockey team is aiming to rebuild. With about 15 new players, most of whom come from association teams, and a new coaching staff, this year the Breck team is facing a whole new set of challenges. The captains admit that this year looks a lot different than the last year, but are both optimistic and prepared to step into leadership roles. “In years past we haven't been able to show what we are really capable of, and I know we all have the potential,'' says Breck captain Belle Kelly.
Players are adjusting to a new coach, but the coach/player relationship seems to be very different than in previous seasons. New Head Coach Tricia Luoma played hockey for the University of New Hampshire and is a three-time Olympian. Previously, she was coaching younger girls, so the high school-paced games will be an adjustment for her. She has made it clear she will stand her ground for what's best for the team as a coach and is closed off to parental input. Despite this, captains have observed that she is open to listening to the team’s input, and has accepted their suggestions so far. The relationship between Luoma and the captains is comfortable, as the coach adjusts to the pace of high school girls hockey. “She's trying her best to learn about what she's supposed to do from us… we give her advice,” says captain Payton Berman.
After experiencing frustration with the captains in previous years, this year’s captains aim to diverge from the intense hierarchy among teammates, and instill a fun yet focused team culture. Last year, captains and top players tended to dominate playing time, which resulted in tension between these players and the rest of the team, especially when lines were switched. This year, captains Kelly, Berman and Aiko Sims all feel that they want to focus on improving the team culture. They aim to create a healthy bond among the new players that will last them into the coming years.
The Breck rebuild is off to a slow start. Minnehaha United beat the Mustangs 5-2 on Nov. 16 to drop Breck's record to 0-3 on the season. Photo by Mike Lieb
The Mustangs are young, with only four upperclassmen, including the three senior captains and one junior goalie. Returning players are optimistic. “Seeing the new players and how that works out is something I’m really excited about,” said Sims.
Though the team is excited to get to know the new players, returning players have to adjust to practices and drills being slowed for the newcomers. Fortunately, this has allowed players and coaches to work together to make sure this team knows how to play with each other. Luoma has made it a point to include the third and fourth lines to make sure everyone improves and sees the ice.
As the Mustangs prepared for their first scrimmage on November 9th against South St Paul, they were hopeful to have a sense of their lines, despite a delay due to several players who were still involved in Fall sports. Six of their players, including returning players Katie Theissen, Addison Gunther, and Kayla MacKinnon, were headed to the state tournament in soccer, and had been unable to attend pre-season practice.
All things considered, the Breck girls hockey team has undergone a complete transformation in the past year. Acknowledging this, the captains feel this is their time to step up and form a team culture that benefits all players. A strong sense of equality among players is important to these captains. “I really want to make sure no one thinks they're above anyone else, or the law,” says Kelly.
Additionally, coming out of COVID, the captains want to make sure they can teach the new players and new coach what a Breck hockey season really feels like, while still accepting all the recent changes. “I know we have the talent,” says Kelly, highlighting the way this team aims to prove themselves despite their short time working together. “In the coming years they’re going to have a great team with all their experience.”
|8.||Centennial / SLP||7.800|
|10.||Benilde - St. Margaret's||7.704|
|3.||South St. Paul||7.533|
|5.||Proctor / Hermantown||7.433|
|6.||Mound Westonka / SWC||7.111|