TROJAN GIRLS' HOCKEY: Milbrath takes over helm of girls’ hockey teamWORTHINGTON — When talking to Eric Milbrath, it is easy to see that he has a deep passion for the sport of hockey. That might explain why he jumped at the chance to coach the Trojan girls’ hockey team this winter.
By: Jordan Willi, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — When talking to Eric Milbrath, it is easy to see that he has a deep passion for the sport of hockey. That might explain why he jumped at the chance to coach the Trojan girls’ hockey team this winter.
“I would do anything to coach,” Milbrath, a 2004 WHS graduate and three year varsity hockey player, said. “It is basically teaching young kids to prepare for their future. It teaches them leadership and responsibility and that is what I enjoy.”
Milbrath, who works at Bedford Industries, got his start in hockey when he was still very young.
“I’ve been playing hockey since I was three or four years old,” Milbrath said. “My uncle played and my grandparents basically put me out there to give it a try.
“My grandpa said to me the other day that I was more-or-less a natural skater. Hockey grows on you and it gets into your blood. And you end up loving it.”
Before taking the head coaching job, Milbrath had coached at the Peewee and Bantam levels within the Worthington hockey association. While coaching those teams, Milbrath made sure his players were the best conditioned team on the ice.
“The first two teams I coached I focused a lot on conditioning,” Milbrath said. “That seemed to work pretty well, but it didn’t put the puck in the net as much I would have hoped. So I hope to change that a little bit.”
Scoring is one of the main skills Milbrath wants to teach his new team. But that doesn’t mean conditioning will take a back seat to scoring.
“I am still going to do the conditioning, because I believe the conditioned teams will outlast their opponent farther into games,” Milbrath said. “But I also want to focus more on set plays and putting the puck in the net and controlling the game.”
Aside from transitioning to a higher and more competitive level of hockey, Milbrath must also make the transition from the more physical boys’ style of hockey, to the more finesse style played by the girls.
“The checking part is a difference between the boys and girls game,” Milbrath said. “I taught the kids I coached before how to check and how to check properly. That’s a step I don’t have to work on here.”
Although girls’ teams are not allowed to check, Milbrath still wants his team to be aggressive at all times.
“I would like to see that physical play more,” Milbrath said. “It is not basketball. There should be a little bit of a tolerance there. There is a point where you can rub them off the puck without checking them.”
However, one of the biggest challenges Milbrath will face in his rookie season is learning to connect with and understand the female players that make up his new team.
“It is definitely different from coaching boys to girls,” Milbrath said. “I have talked to a few of the girls and I think they are a fun bunch of girls, so it’s going to be real fun. I know they are excited to have me as a coach. “
With six brand new skaters and a new head coach, Milbrath knows his team will have its rough patches, but he also knows that winning isn’t everthing.
“As long as the girls enjoy themselves, learn something new and give 110 percent every game, every practice, right there is already a win,” Milbrath said. “Winning and losing doesn’t really say how you played. If you played a close game every game and were in every game until the last second, you can’t say you’ve lost.”
The Trojan girls’ hockey team starts practice Oct. 29 and will face their first test as a new team when St. Peter/LeSueur/Henderson comes to town Nov. 16.
Daily Globe Reporter Jordan Willi
may be reached at 376-7335.