Champlin Park and top line look to make noise in Section 5AA
by Bryan Zollman
It took Champlin Park junior winger Brent Solomon an entire period to eclipse his goal total from his sophomore season.
Solomon scored four goals in the first period of the Rebels’ first game, a 9-4 win over St. Louis Park. He would go on to score two more to finish with six goals on the night. He scored three all of last season.
“Brent played half JV and half varsity last year,” said Champlin park Head Coach Tom Potter, in his seventh season with the Rebels. “With the depth we had on last year’s team we just didn’t have a scoring role for him.”
If there was any question whether he could fill that scoring role this season, Solomon answered it early.
“We graduated a lot of guys and he jumped right in,” said Potter. “We knew he’d come in and score some goals this year. But we didn’t expect him to get six in the first game. He certainly came out firing.”
Potter said Solomon’s offseason work helped him elevate his game to a top-line winger.
“He really put the work in,” he said. “He improved his skating and has good speed and a good stride. He’s strong in puck battles. He’s worked on his hands and is good in tight areas. He worked on his shot a ton and can really fire the puck. He put two in the other night where he had a space about the size of a donut.”
Solomon is one-third of the top line that also includes Trevor Aberwald and Will Burnevik. The trio has scored 14 of the team’s 18 goals on the season. Burnevik centers the line and has two goals and six assists in the first two games after posting 30 points (9g-21a) last season. He is in his third season as a varsity player.
“He often gets overlooked, but he is a huge part of who we are,” said Potter. “He’s a good skater and a smart hockey player with good hands and a good shot. He makes that line go. We can put Will with anyone and he will be successful. He’s a 200-foot player.”
Aberwald is a feisty forward at 5’6” who finished third on the team in scoring a year ago with 16 goals and 26 assists.
“He’s a player who can change a game,” said Potter. “We knew we’d have to rely on him for scoring last season. We just didn’t know it would take 11 games for him to get his first goal.”
Which means Aberwald scored 16 goals in the team’s final 15 games. This season he is off to a good start with a 4-goal game Saturday in the team’s 9-2 win over Eagan and has seven points through the first two contests.
“He’s got a great shot, is a great stickhandler and is a great skater,” said Potter. “He’s one of those guys who never wants to leave the ice. He’s going to be very important for us this season. That whole line is going to be huge for us.”
The top line is also the No. 1 power play unit which is clipping along at a 50 percent rate in the first two games. The point man is senior captain Austin Anderson. Anderson scored in each of the team’s first two games and is coming off a solid junior season where he averaged a point a game (7g, 19a).
“Whetever you need out of Austin, he will do it,” said Potter, calling Anderson a coach’s dream. “He takes pride in the D-zone and will be physical and will block a shot or do anything that needs to be done. He will do whatever it takes to win a hockey game.”
Serving as the point man on the power play, Anderson is a strong two-way defenseman.
“He has really improved his skating, has sneaky good hands and can fire the puck,” he said.
Potter said Anderson will be a good player at the next level.
“He will find a spot to keep playing hockey and whoever gets him will be really happy,” he said. “He just doesn’t stop. He’s a bulldog.”
Anderson anchors the defense, runs the power play, and Potter said he has a hard time keeping him on the bench for penalty kills.
“He’s always the first one over the boards,” he said.
Anderson relishes his role as one of the captains.
“I’m a pretty vocal leader,” he said. “I will put my team before myself whether that is off the ice or on the penalty kill or blocking shots.”
While the Rebels have proven they can score goals, keeping the other team off the scoreboard will be key to their success.
“The focus is to play physical and not get lost watching the puck in our end,” said Anderson.
Potter said Burnevik, Aberwald and Solomon will also be successful at the next level. But the hope is they will be successful enough this year to go deep into a strong Section 5AA that includes Maple Grove, Centennial, Rogers and Coon Rapids.
Last season they beat eventual Section 5AA winner Maple Grove, split with Centennial, beat Coon Rapids, and lost to Rogers by a goal.
“If we just stick to our game we believe we can beat anyone in the state,” said Anderson.
There is plenty of hockey yet to be played. Potter said he knows what the landscape looks like and what other teams bring to the table. He doesn’t mind being one of the underdogs in the section.
“I expect us to compete for a top spot in that section,” said Potter. “We’re a team nobody’s given much attention to and we are fine with that. We don’t need the accolades or a top ranking. We are going to show up every day and compete.”