Boys Hockey: Fischer pushes Warriors to quarterfinal victory

Warriors 5, Bemidji 4 Overtime The key: Brainerd's Matt Fischer scored 1:57 into overtime Overall: Brd 15-9-2, Bemidji finishes 14-10-1 Next: No. 4 Brainerd at No. 1 Moorhead in Section 8-2A semifinals 7 p.m. Saturday Trailing 3-0 and 4-2, the se...


Warriors 5, Bemidji 4


The key: Brainerd's Matt Fischer scored 1:57 into overtime

Overall: Brd 15-9-2, Bemidji finishes 14-10-1

Next: No. 4 Brainerd at No. 1 Moorhead in Section 8-2A semifinals 7 p.m. Saturday


Trailing 3-0 and 4-2, the season appeared to be drawing to a close for the Brainerd Warriors in the quarterfinals of the Section 8-2A tournament Tuesday.

That thought vanished when Brainerd's Will Lundstrom and Mason Kruse scored in the final 3:41 of regulation. And then Matt Fischer sent the capacity crowd at Essentia Health Sports Center into a hysteria when he scored 1:57 into the 8-minute overtime to give the fourth-seeded Warriors a pulsating 5-4 victory over the No. 5 Bemidji Lumberjacks.

During a faceoff to the left of Bemidji goalie Matt Fitzgerald, Fischer took the draw and pushed the puck toward Fitzgerald. The disc hit a skate, caught Fitzgerald out of position, and it was in the back of the net.

"It was just off the faceoff," Fischer said. "(Warriors head coach Dave) Aus told us to push the puck forward and I did. I didn't know whether it went into the net. It probably was the luckiest goal I've ever scored."

Aus said he got the push play from Jim Scheid, one of his former assistants at Blaine who died of cancer in 2015.

"We have a little sign on the bench where we give a shove," Aus said. "It just went through the center's legs. What's supposed to happen is (Will) Lundstrom is supposed to go to the back post. He's supposed to slide it across. A lot of times you can catch a team on it.

"I wasn't even looking. I was reaching down to get water because I had cottonmouth so bad, and all of a sudden the guys went crazy."

A brief post game fracas ensued with Bemidji's Brady Tatro receiving a 5-minute major and a game disqualification before the teams headed to their respective locker rooms.


The victory pushes Brainerd into the section semifinals against top-seeded Moorhead, a 6-0 winner over No. 8 Rogers. In the other quarterfinals, No. 2 St. Michael-Albertville nipped No. 7 St. Cloud Apollo/Tech 5-4 and No. 3 Roseau outlasted No. 6 Buffalo 6-5 in two overtimes.

"This gives us confidence, knowing we can play a big game with a lot of people there," Fischer said. "Moorhead is going to be a good atmosphere. It will be an exciting game, but we know there's business to be done. We're not ready to be done there either. We're going to try to keep it going."

Aus said it was one of the biggest wins he's ever been associated with. Before coming to Brainerd he coached Blaine to the state tournament six consecutive times.

"This game was one of the greatest games I've ever coached in," Aus said. "I was so proud of all the kids, even the guys on the fourth line who didn't play a lot tonight. They just stayed with it, stayed with it and stayed with it. There were no sour faces. It was just a team win."

Trailing 4-2, Lundstrom kick-started the Warriors' comeback as he went top shelf to beat Fitzgerald at 13:19 of the third. Twenty nine seconds later, Kruse's rebound tied it 4-4.

In the first, despite being outshot 11-6, the Lumberjacks led in quality scoring chances 4-2. One of those quality chances was by Josh Baker, who opened the scoring at 10:48. Ryan Pogue smashed a shot off the glass behind Warrior goalie James Engen, the rebound trickled to Baker and he banged it home.

The Lumberjacks surged to a 3-0 lead with two second-period goals by Alex Pollock.

Pollock's first goal featured a textbook tic-toe-toe passing play between Chase Hartje and Tatro to Pollock who finished it.


At 4:46 of the second, Bemidji was whistled for two penalties simultaneously, one in each end of the rink. But the Warriors wasted the advantage as Pollock secured a Brainerd turnover and with two Warriors on him scored short-handed for a 3-goal edge.

Fischer finally put Brainerd on the board at 10:44 of the second, taking a crisp pass from Jack Evans.

Nick Karsnia got Brainerd into the game with his score at 12:44 of the second. With the puck in the midst of a crowd in front, it saucered out to Karsnia who blasted a shot past a screened Fitzgerald and it was 3-2.

At 9:36 of the third, Hartje put the Lumberjacks ahead 4-2 when he blasted a shot from the top of the faceoff circle through traffic.

Fischer said playing from behind was a test of the Warriors' character.

"We responded pretty well," he said. "When it's 3-0, most times we could have quit, but I think our team came together. We really did it for each other. We knew we didn't want to be done tonight so we just battled back and now we're playing Saturday."

Aus said when it was 3-0 he and assistant coach Kurt King looked at each other and said it will be difficult to come back.

"But that first goal (by Fischer) changed things," Aus said. "Then when it got to 4-2, in the next seven or eight minutes I felt like if we could get one before we had to pull our goalie that we would have a chance. When we got the third one, at that point I thought we were going to tie it.


"I said before the game on the radio, in all the years I've done this, if you're going to win in the playoffs you need some role guys to score. For Karsnia to get one, then Lundstrom-we just about put Nick Hastings in for Lundstrom just because Nick handles the puck a little better and we thought if we need one we might need him to make a play to Fischer or Jack (Evans). But Will forechecked so hard tonight. He was really a catalyst."

Bemidji 1 2 1 0-4

Brainerd 0 2 2 1-5

First period: Bem-Josh Baker (Hunter Olson, Ryan Pogue) 10:48

Second period: Bem-Alex Pollock (Chase Hartje, Brady Tatro) 0:55; Bem-Pollock shg 5:32; Brd-Matt Fischer (Jack Evans, Will Lundstrom) 10:44; Brd-Nick Karsnia (Nick Hastings, Wyatt Andres) 12:44

Third period: Bem-Hartje (Pollock) 9:36; Brd-Lundstrom (Westin Andres, Fischer) 13:19; Brd-Mason Kruse (Wyatt Andres, Westin Andres) 13:48

Overtime: Brd-Fischer 1:57

Shots on goal: Brd 11-11-9-2--33, Bem 6-13-9-0--28


Goalies: Brd-James Engen (24 saves); Bem-Matt Fitzgerald (28 saves).

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