With the pedigree of the Breck girls hockey program being what it is, most never envisioned head coach Chris Peterson using the term “bottoming out” to describe any portion of his team’s season.
That is, most everybody but Peterson.
Then again, as he noted long before the puck even dropped on the 2012-13 girls hockey season, this is not the type of group those associated with Breck have been accustomed to watching.
“We knew this was going to take some time this year,” Peterson admitted last week. “There was never any question that we might struggle. Our schedule was just too tough, and our girls were just too inexperienced. And I kept telling people, you don’t win a state championship in December or January. You win those in March.”
Breck, of course, would know.
The Mustangs won their first Class A state championship last winter, losing twice all year en route to that title.
This year, the Mustangs have already dropped nine games. In fact, until a 7-2 victory over St. Paul United Jan. 17 evened Breck’s overall record at 9-9-1, the Mustangs hadn’t even spent a single day with at least a .500 record this year.
That should change now though, as the girls progress is finally being measured in victories.
The most notable of such came Jan. 7, when they beat Class AA No. 13 Lakeville South 3-2.
That victory came just two games after the team had dropped a 3-1 decision to Prior Lake, which entered that night just 2-11 on the year – a defeat that coincided with a speech Peterson gave to his team about what would be their low-point.
“No disrespect to Prior Lake, because they are a well-coached team, but there is no way we should lose a game like that,” Peterson said. “The only way we could go after then was up, and it was going to be a defining moment in our season. We bottomed out, so this, for us, was where the road splits. We can go one way, or the other.”
Which ever direction the Mustangs decided on, it appears to be the correct one.
Breck responded immediately with a 6-0 victory over Minnehaha Academy. They took out Lakeville South next, and have won three more in a row since then to get the record to .500.
Staring this week, there were five regular season games remaining. Despite the early-season struggles, the girls were still in line for a No. 2 or 3 seed in the Section 5A playoffs.
Two of their remaining games are noteworthy, as Breck faces Class AA No. 1 Minnetonka and No. 12 Hopkins on consecutive nights Jan. 30 and 31.
“That was by design, believe it or not,” said Peterson. “If we do get a chance to get back to the state tournament, that is like the Friday semifinals and Saturday championship game. Some people might call me crazy, but we love that sort of test. That will get us ready for whatever lies ahead.”
Contact Nick Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org