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White Bear Lake's Wahlin sets torrid pace

By Aaron Paitich, Special to the Star Tribune, 12/26/10, 10:03PM CST

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Training, teammates help senior forward thrive


White Bear Lake’s Brandon Wahlin, right, shown fighting for the puck against Hill-Murray’s Ryan Holler last season, is averaging 3.33 points per game. Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

White Bear Lake senior forward Brandon Wahlin isn’t sneaking up on anyone. He is an experienced third-year varsity boys hockey player who had 47 points a year ago.

But that doesn’t mean his current numbers aren’t eye-popping.

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Bears assistant captain had 11 goals and nine assists through the first six games this season, including two four-goal games and a seven-point showing (four goals, three assists) in a season-opening 11-0 win over Rochester Century.

He’s averaging 3.33 points per game, putting him on pace to flirt with the century mark at season’s end depending on how far White Bear Lake advances. Regardless of whether he hits it or not, the improvements have been highly visible on the ice.

“He’s a treat to watch,” White Bear Lake coach Tim Sager said. “I think he’s ahead of things in the sense of seeing the ice. Things slow down for him. That’s a knack that usually doesn’t come until the guys all graduate and are 19 and aren’t nervous anymore.”

Why the huge jump? Two reasons: linemates and an offseason training regiment. Wahlin has been playing with classmate Max Birkinbine on the same line for seven years. Junior Mitch Morrisette stepped in this year and has jelled nicely.

“Without them, there’s no way I would have had those four-goal games,” Wahlin said.

Wahlin’s always been crafty with the stick, but he worked with a local hockey training facility in the offseason, FHIT Players, for which he credits his recent improvements.

“Working out with some guys that are going Division I there helped a lot,” Wahlin said. “It made me work harder and try to be like those guys.”

Jason Berg, the founder and director of FHIT Players, saw an immediate change in Wahlin this offseason.

“He was always a good player, but something kind of clicked for him,” Berg said. “There’s been an increase in effort, time and the realization that he’s got to be better.”

Wahlin started showing up more prepared and motivated than ever.

The senior tested himself last summer, trying out for Sioux City of the United States Hockey League. He didn’t make the team, but he felt it was a healthy measuring stick. The offseason work and fast start to the season should only increase his chances of getting drafted in the highly skilled and competitive USHL next season.

Of all the improvements he’s made, Wahlin takes the most pride in his growth as a leader. Knowing this is his last season as a high school hockey player, he’s focused on helping his team improve.

He’s a big reason the Bears started the season 5-1-0. And he’s vowing not to let Hill-Murray end the Bears’ season again.

“I don’t want to be that guy sitting there crying in the locker room at the end of the year,” Wahlin said, recalling past years of lost section championships to the Pioneers. “I want to be that guy that can say we were the team to end the streak against Hill-Murray. We’re the team to beat them to go to the state tournament.”

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Moorhead's Jack Stetz (21) throws his arms up as he and his teammates celebrated the win. ] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com