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Girls Hockey: Warriors hope to add chapter to storybook season

Brainerd/Little Falls coach Jim Ernster would like to add one more chapter to what has been a storybook season for the Warriors.

As they prepare to play the Roseau Rams for the Section 8-2A title Friday, Ernster said, "It's neat to be at this juncture. Obviously it will be way more satisfying if we can complete the chapter that this is waiting to have the proper ending for."

Class 2A's 13th-ranked Warriors, the top seed in the section, are a confident group entering the contest. They edged the second-seeded Rams 4-3 during the regular season.

In that victory, BLF scored three second-period goals and withstood a Roseau rally in the third. Linemates Cheyenne Abear, Lindsey Booth and Abby Pohlkamp combined for six points. Goalie Olivia King stopped 17 of 20 Roseau shots.

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Section 8-2A championship

  • When: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17
  • Where: Bemidji Community Arena
  • Who: No. 1 Brainerd vs. No. 2 Roseau
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"Roseau is one of the titans of Section 8. It doesn't matter, boys or girls," Ernster said. "You know what you're going to get. They're going to be really tough on the puck, and mentally tough, so you're going to have beat them. They're not going to do things to hurt themselves. That's what you get from well-coached teams and programs that have been doing this a long time.

"We need go out and be tenacious with our pressure to create those turnovers that we thrive on as a team."

Ernster said BLF, which has won seven straight and will play in the first section final in program history, needs to relax and have some fun Friday. After a 5-3 win over No. 8 Buffalo/Maple Lake in the quarterfinals Saturday, the Warriors beat No. 4 Sartell/Sauk Rapids 2-0 in the semifinals Tuesday.

"I think we were a little tight Saturday and that led to some inconsistency. (Tuesday) you could tell the girls were ready to go. I give credit to our captains. They set the tone before practice Monday. Our coaching staff had a good film review session with a lot of girls. All of those little things add up to what you saw Tuesday but it all starts with having fun out there."

Roseau (18-8-1) has won its last four games, seven of its last eight, and is ranked 18th in 2A. The Rams, who won section titles in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, beat No. 7 North Wright County 4-1 in the quarterfinals and No. 3 St. Cloud 4-2 in the semifinals.

Their offense is led by Elice Murphy and Lindsey Santi who both have 37 points. Goalie Kiana Flaig had a 1.99 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in the regular season. In two playoff games, she has a 1.50 GAA and .932 save percentage.

The Warriors have great offensive balance—seven players with at least 21 points. Ally Smith leads with 51 points followed by Abby Pohlkamp with 46, Gabbie Smith 42, Lindsey Booth 40, Cheyenne Abear 35, Sophie Robinson 25 and Grace Schulte 21.

In net, Olivia King has been a rock, with a 1.77 GAA and .916 save percentage in the regular season. In two playoff games, she has a 1.50 GAA and .893 save percentage.

Ernster senses there is excitement in school and in the community for this team. A standing-room only crowd watched Tuesday's semifinal victory at Essentia Health Sports Center.

"That crowd was unbelievable," Ernster said. "That shows you the level of buy-in that people in the community have with this group of girls. It's just been phenomenal to see. The girls are super excited."

Friday's championship will be played at Bemidji Community Arena, adjacent to Bemidji High School.

"I'm glad they chose (BCA) over the Sanford Center because it's one less distraction," Ernster said. "You can have a big-eyes mentality walking into a place like the Sanford if you're not familiar with it.

"(BCA) is a nice rink. It should be jam-packed. I know Roseau will travel well and I think we will get a good crowd there. It should be a phenomenal atmosphere."