Credit: Gopher Athletics.
There wasn’t a storybook ending for the Breck girls’ hockey team this year, as the Mustangs fell once again to longtime rival Blake in overtime in the Section 5A finals. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful season.
Breck finished the regular season 21-4-0 and ranked second in Class A (behind eventual state champion Blake) and Jenna Brenneman was named the Let’s Play Hockey Senior Goalie of the Year. While replacing two top-notch senior goaltenders is a must, the Mustangs’ future looks bright. Four of Breck’s top five goal scorers return, including leading scorer Grace Zumwinkle.
Leading the way for Breck is head coach Ronda Engelhardt, who is no stranger to success, nor to hockey fans in Minnesota. Engelhardt’s hockey career began in Roseville, where, then known as Ronda Curtin, she was named Ms. Hockey in 1999. While a Golden Gopher, Engelhardt was a two-time All-American and Patty Kazmaier top-three finalist. During her career at the University of Minnesota, Engelhardt scored 167 points. During the 2008-09 season, she was named one of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s best athletes of the decade. Engelhardt was also a member of the United States Select Team that competed at the 1999 Christmas Cup tournament in Fussen, Germany.
Engelhardt, who is married (to Brett, a former professional hockey player) and has three kids, just completed her third successful season behind the Mustangs’ bench. She took the time to answer a few questions for Stateofhockey.com:
Credit: Gopher Athletics.
When did you start playing hockey?
I started playing Mites when I was four years old.
What options were available for girls in hockey back then?
The only option I knew of when I started was the boys, but that is all we looked at. Two of my older brothers played so I just followed suit. There were some girl’s teams out there that I learned about when I got older like the Minnesota Thoroughbreds.
Can you describe what it was like to dominate the sport like that with your sister?
My sister and I just loved to play. We really didn’t think about dominating, we just wanted to compete and had so much fun doing it. We were raised to work hard and always strive to improve. We loved being on the ice together and took advantage of our opportunities to skate together.
Was the Roseville community supportive of the girls' team?
The community was great. We always felt supported by Roseville in the community and especially in school.
Was coaching after playing a natural fit for you?
I would say yes. I started coaching in some skating schools while in high school, and started immediately after I graduated college. I feel it is important to keep on growing the game.
What has been the most rewarding part of coaching?
The mentoring. Seeing girls grow as people has been the most rewarding part of coaching. Sports can do great things for girls, so I think that being a positive mentor can go a long way.
What's next for you?
You never know, but I plan to continue coaching as it is a passion of mine.
Ronda Engelhardt with goaltender Jenna Brenneman. Credit: Karyl Rice for Breck School.