Tony Couture back in state as goalie coach for Brainerd/Little Falls girls
Warriors goalie coach gets second straight trip to state. This time he's coaching on the girls side.
BRAINERD — Tony Couture is going back to the state hockey tournament for the second consecutive year.
This time it’s with girls hockey and it’s as a Warrior not a Flyer.
Last year, Couture was the head coach for the Little Falls boys hockey team which reached the semifinals of the Class 1A state tournament.
Couture said prior to last year’s state run that it would be his last season and he would retire. He also spent last season coaching the senior season of his son Dane who was the Flyers’ goalie.
Retirement as head coach, sure, but Couture hasn’t retired from coaching altogether.
First-year Brainerd/Little Falls girls hockey head coach Tate Rusk called Couture last summer after he ran some captains’ practices to see if he wanted to join the girls’ hockey staff as goalie coach.
“We were trying to figure out who could be in that goalie coach role and I was after talking with Tony about running captains’ practice. I got off the phone and was like ‘man, that guy seemed really eager to help out,’” Rusk said. “I called him back after the practice and asked him to help out with the girls because he’s been there and I’m sure I could use the help. He thought about it for a month and I would shoot him a text to butter him up and after I talked to him at the end of the month he was in.”
Couture always saw himself coaching goalies even when he stepped down at Little Falls.
“It’s what I do,” he said. “I was a goalie myself. So coach Rusk reached out to me and asked me if I was interested in helping with the goalies. It took a little time to decide to jump right back into it. I was just kind of going to do goalies, but my daughter plays on the team, so it turned into I’d go to practice everyday and kind of turned into a full time thing and it was a great fit.”
Couture’s daughter, Kendra, is a junior on the Warriors and scored the game-winning goal for BLF in the Section 8-2A semifinals against Alexandria.
“One thing that I tell a lot of people is that when you are a head coach of a program you are all in,” Couture said. “I know last year I only saw a couple games that she played and she was JV so her games started at 5 o’clock and I wasn’t able to get to hardly any games. I was around my son for three years at the varsity level and coached him so I was around his games and Kendra got the short stick a little bit and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to help the girls and go to games to see her play. It was a pretty wonderful thing that I was able to watch her and share some of that time with her.”
Rusk said Couture’s experience of being in seven state tournaments in his 28 seasons coaching the Little Falls boys is valuable.
“He’s more than a goalie coach,” Rusk said. “He’s been an awesome mentor to me to listen to and he’s especially helped us out in planning the state tournament. He knows a few things about what to look out for.”
The Warriors have three goalies on their roster with junior Breya Sawyer seeing most of the action with 21 starts, including the three section playoff games.
Sawyer owns a 91.1 save percentage with a 1.95 goals against average and five shutouts. Backup goalie Ericah Folden started four games and held an 89.9 save percentage and other backup Emily Johnson started one game with a 93.3 save percentage.
“I tell people we have three No. 1s,” Couture said. “It’s a situation where Breya got hot at the beginning of the year and continued to play well the whole year. I know how the other two feel because I was a backup at North Dakota for a year and you’re always hoping to play. All the goalies we have, have been positive and supportive of each other and work hard in practice.”
Couture isn’t just a coach for the Warriors. He is also a bus driver. Couture will drive the Little Falls girls on the team to and from practice.
He also spends time working with goalies on the Little Falls boys team and in the Little Falls youth hockey program.
“I still do mornings with the (Little Falls) boys' goalies,” he said. “So I'm still a little active with boys still and then I also do the youth goalies on Wednesday nights.”
Rusk added: “The man is just time committed and he’s dedicated to the girls and he’s dedicated to the boys. All-around he is just dedicated to making both programs better.”
Couture said anything Rusk needs going into Thursday's state quarterfinal matchup against Andover he’ll lend a helping hand.
“Anything that I can do to help with when we made the state tournament with knowledge of what I went through with the boys a couple times,” he said. “It’s a fun thing and it will be a different feel for sure with not being a head coach. But I just love being around and now that we’ve made the state tournament it’s brought back a lot of memories.”