Jessica Christopherson is a coach whose stock is on the rise. In just her first season as head coach of the Coon Rapids girls hockey program, she took the Cardinals all the way to state, losing to eventual champ Minnetonka. Jessica had the good fortune of getting players like future Gopher Rachael Bona to help guide the team to a section championship. I asked coach Christopherson about her future at Coon Rapids and about what kind of player Gopher fans will see with Bona. Here is that conversation…
Jeff Examiner- Congrats on a great season at Coon Rapids! What do you think was the key to the success of your team? What was your philosophy going in?
Jessica Christopherson- Thank you! The biggest keys to our success was our depth and our team chemistry. We were strong at every position and consistently played three, sometimes four lines throughout the season. They found a way to maximize the potential of that depth and created a very fast, aggressive offense – it’s tough to stop a team that averaged 4.5 goals a game for 31 games. While we had a couple of superstars, these kids didn’t care who got the credit – they just wanted to win. They also worked harder than any team I’ve ever coached – these kids were as motivated as it gets. As a coach, you can’t ask for more than that.
JE- Now that a lot of your top players have graduated, what type of season do you expect to have in 2011-12?
JC- We still have a tremendous amount of talent and we bring back a ton of experience. The five we lost will be greatly missed, but we are excited about the 2011-2012 season. Our younger kids are very skilled and they have a lot of varsity experience – we play a pretty tough schedule so they are used to playing the best that’s out there. We are returning eight of our ten top scorers from last year (214 points) and that group is led by current freshman Amy Schlagel who had 53 points this year. There will definitely be a different look to the team, but we will still be strong. Our kids are tough, they are excellent skaters and their work ethic is second to none – we can compete with anyone.
JE- How good is Rachael Bona and how will her game translate to the college level?
JC– Rachael is the real deal. I am most proud of the way she continued to get better as the season went on and she played her best when it mattered. 22 points in the section and state tournaments alone…that is special. She ended her career with a five point night (5-4 double OT win) against a great Hill Murray team. I can’t speak enough to her ability to play her best against the better teams. There are a lot of great goal scorers but her game is multi-dimensional – she can beat you in so many ways. She is fast and extremely elusive, she has great hands and she can snipe. It is very difficult to stop her on a given play, let alone for an entire game.
She’s going to be great at the college level. I’m sure there will be an adjustment period with the pace and the physicality of the college game, but she is more than capable of adapting quickly. She spends her off seasons playing with the highest level competition and even with guys – she knows where she needs to improve to get ready for the next level and she is putting in the time.
JE– For the Gopher fans who don’t know much about Rachael Bona, what type of player should they expect to get? Does she remind you of anyone or does she have a unique game?
JC- She is very exciting to watch and her game is unique because she can do so many things. Everyone knows she can skate, stick handle and score…but what is overlooked is the way she sees the ice. She has an uncanny ability to cut just at the right time and get the shot off or take just the right angle to buy herself more time and space. She is also a tremendous asset defensively – she is not afraid to mix it up in the corners and break the puck out. She’s also an excellent teammate. Rachael had goals for herself, just like everyone else. But what mattered to her most was taking her team to the state tournament and making sure that our group of 30 was going to have that dream season. These are the things that people don’t see and that is the mark she is leaving on our program.
JE– If you had any advice for coach Brad Frost, what would it be?
JC– Haha…I’m not so sure a first year head coach is the right person to be giving advice to Coach Frost! J He has a first class program that is always in contention and that is because of the way he runs things and the kids he brings in. I am looking forward to seeing another one of our kids play for him and hopefully win a National Championship.
Thanks to coach Christopherson for taking the time to talk. We wish you well in the future and I, for one, will be following Cardinal hockey to see how they do and see if another superstar will be born.
More interviews will be on the horizon.