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Warriors Athlete of Week: Brainerd goalie stands tall in overtime

Brainerd’s Olivia King stops the puck during a game this season. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch

Olivia King

Sport: Hockey

Position: Goaltender

Year: Sophomore

Age: 16

Height: 5-foot-6

Other sports: Soccer

Favorite class: Language Arts

Favorite food: Macaroni

Favorite movie: "Miracle"

Favorite TV show: "Friends"

Hobbies: Hunting, swimming, skiing

Favorite hockey player: Noora Räty

Future plans: Play college hockey

Parents: Kurt and Sarah King

At only 5-foot-6, in the biggest game of her life, Olivia King stood tall.

The Brainerd/Little Falls Warriors goaltender was magnificent in a 3-2 loss to Roseau in four overtimes in the Section 8-2A championship game Feb. 17. She stopped 48 of 51 shots, including 20 of 21 in the four extra sessions. About 3,000 fans watched the epic game at Bemidji Community Arena.

The only overtime shot that got past King was a high rocket by Roseau's Ella Helgeson with 80 seconds left in the fourth overtime.

"She just came out of the corner," King said. "It was just a nice shot over my blocker."

The marathon contest lasted nearly three hours and 45 minutes. In overtime, the teams only left the ice after the first and third overtimes so the ice could be resurfaced.

"I guess at one point I thought I was tired," King said, "but the adrenaline kicked in. The crowd was amazing so that helped.

"It definitely was nice to get some water, get a little break. But I think all the girls wanted to get back on the ice. You're tired and fatigued, but there's nothing better than that atmosphere. We wanted to get back on the ice and get ready to play."

Warriors goaltending coach Toby Kvalevog pointed out that in three playoff games King allowed five goals in four games—if you count the overtime game as two games.

"I thought she really stood tall in the nets," Kvalevog said. "She was just ready. I never noticed a goaltender who was overanxious or overplayed anything. ... Her overall calm demeanor in that game exceeded expectations and allowed her to be successful.

"To be in that position, like (Roseau goalie Kiana Flaig) they're both (sophomores). To withstand that pressure and play with courage, was remarkable."

Kvalevog, a former goalie at Bemidji High School and the University of North Dakota, who was drafted by the Ottawa Senators, said a goalie is more focused when facing as many shots as King did. In her first two playoff games, King saw just 12 shots from Buffalo in the quarterfinals and only 16 from Sartell in the semifinals.

"Facing three or four high-quality shots is a much harder game to play in for a goalie from a physiological standpoint because you're cold," Kvalevog said. "You're looking at the scoreboard thinking if I give up a bad one here, they're going to be right back in it, when time of possession and stats indicate we're dominating the game.

"When you get in a game where you have 40 to 50 shots, you never have a chance to get cold. With that being said, to be able to play with the calmness that she did in that type of game was a credit to her."

Most goaltenders have a pregame ritual. King said hers includes listening to music to get focused, warming up by herself, going through what she wants her game to be like and visualizing it.

Kvalevog said he and junior varsity coach Mandy Hanson, a former Warrior goalie, who went on to play at Union College in New York, have tried to help King with her pregame routine and he thought that was a factor Friday.

"Mandy brought up breaking the game down into smaller time frames, like five minutes at a time, and give yourself a little mental break between," he said. "I took the focal point and breathing, like a yoga-type breathing where you slow your body, mentally prepare yourself for the game.

"The combination of those two things she took that from practice into the game. I think that helped her from that standpoint. The physical ability she showed, and the ability to make the saves she did, is a credit to her work on ice and off the ice."

King finishes her sophomore season, her third as a starter, with a 24-3 record, four shutouts, a sparkling 1.64 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. The Warriors finished 25-3, the best season in program history, and the first time the program has reached the section finals.

"It was amazing," King said of the season. "We had amazing captains and seniors that helped us along the way. We could not have done it without them. There was definitely no one like them."

The Warriors graduate just five seniors and had only three juniors on the playoff roster. The remaining players were either sophomores, freshmen or eighth-graders.

"I definitely think we have a strong future, no doubt about it," King said. "I think this year will help a lot and carry into next year, especially for the younger girls, to get them some experience to make sure they know what the playoffs feel like. I think we will be ready for next year."

Other notable efforts:

• Alex Stone, girls Alpine skiing, finished eighth in the state meet to earn all-state honors.

• Jacob Heinlen, floor hockey, scored a hat trick and collected five assists vs. Maple Grove.

• Matt Allord, floor hockey, had a hat trick vs. Maple Grove.

• Michael Russell, boys basketball, scored 20 points vs. Apollo and 21 vs. Alexandria.

• Kylee Heurung, girls basketball, scored 30 points vs. Apollo and 31 vs. Alexandria.

• Michael Bieganek, boys basketball, scored 25 points and had 11 rebounds vs. Apollo.

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