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Akerson is named new Willmar girls hockey coach

WILLMAR -- Willmar High School filled the final head coaching vacancy for the upcoming school year by hiring Chad Akerson to be the head coach of the girls hockey program.

"I'm very excited for the opportunity and the chance to work with an established program," He said. "I've been working with them for the last couple of weeks in summer hockey camp, so I'm looking forward to the upcoming season."

Akerson, a 1998 Willmar graduate, replaces Rick Dahle, who ran the program for the last two years.

"Chad has a real passion for working with kids," said Willmar activities director Jamie Thompson. "It's his mission and it's what he wants to do. His love of hockey will translate to his love for teaching hockey. It was a goal of his to be a head coach and he's ready."

Akerson, who is a senior high health and physical education teacher, has coached at different levels of the boys program. He was the varsity assistant coach under three head coaches -- John Wilson, P.T. Haider and Reed Larson -- then resigned when Willmar hired Dan Tollefson to take over the program. He was the PeeWee A coach last season.

Akerson was named the Class A assistant boys soccer coach of the year in Minnesota in 2007 and has also coached sophomore baseball.

He graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead in 2002 and played baseball for the Cobbers.

The girls program has struggled since state tournament appearances in 2002 and 2003. The Cardinals were 8-19 last season. Willmar hasn't had a winning girls hockey season since going 15-11 in 2004-05.

"The players have good skills. I think they need to buy into the system," he said. "The girls, parents and coaching staff need to get on the same page and start to believe in each other. It's about improving each day. If they put in the effort, then I think there are good things to come in the near future for the Willmar Cardinals."

Sports Editor Scott Thoma contributed to this report.