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Published December 14 2010

High school hockey: Brenk surprises on offense

Confidence was never the question.

Using confidence in certain situations, however, was the question for Moorhead boys hockey player Eric Brenk.

A year ago, he was a sophomore expecting big things but played a bit role, only scoring one goal.

Now, the left winger has applied the right amount of confidence leading the No. 14 Spuds with three goals heading into today’s game at rival Roseau.

“Last year, I was a little scared so I was afraid to try some things,” Brenk said. “I was just nervous. I didn’t want to do anything stupid or mess up.”

Moorhead coach Dave Morinville said Brenk had the talent, but had a skewed view of what varsity hockey would be like.

Brenk said he expected to have a solid season and contribute, but the numbers (1 goal, 7 assists in 27 games) were not what he wanted.

Morinville said the low numbers and the learning curve was enough to change Brenk’s approach.

“Last year he did not have the strength,” Morinville said. “This year, he is a junior with strength. Lifting weights gives you strength, but it gives you that He-Man confidence.”

Getting bigger helped, but the main catalyst of change was playing in the Elite League.

The Elite League is an invite-only competition where the premier players from high schools teams across the state are invited to play 27 regular-season games from early September to late October.

Brenk, who had 8 points in 16 games, said making the team along with competing against some of Minnesota’s best showed him he has the ability to score and create.

His Elite League season ended two weeks early after Brenk suffered a broken jaw.

“Playing with him in the Elite League,” said Moorhead teammate Bryant Christian. “… you realized he can play with the best of them.”

Christian, who centers Brenk’s line, said Brenk has also brought creativity to the team.

Brenk has flashed some of his skills by pulling off various toe drags and dekes.

In turn, Christian said, it has opened things up for anyone playing with him.

That could come in handy tonight as Brenk has scored three of Moorhead’s four goals this season.

Christian is happy for his friend, but like any good player, he’s a little perturbed he hasn’t scored more.

“It kind of motivates us,” Christian said about Brenk. “It’s annoying to know we have four goals and he has three of them. But at the same time, we’re not going to complain about it.”

Scoring goals is likely to get harder with defenses being aware of him, Morinville said.

The 14-year Spuds coach added it is games like Roseau that can help Brenk in his development.

He said its being checked or disrupted is how Brenk will get better and learn to deal with the attention.

Attention is something Brenk is getting with a few schools having sent him mail following his Elite League performances.

“My goal is to play Division I college hockey, that’s the ultimate goal, well, the NHL’s the ultimate goal, but I want to play D-I hockey,” he said. “It’d be awesome if I could play at the USHL and then go play D-I. Playing D-I has always been a goal of mind and I am going to do my best to get there.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548