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Boys Hockey: Fischer's hat trick propels Warriors into Section 8-2A semifinals

David Wetterling would have been proud. Wetterling, who died Sunday at Rochester Methodist Hospital, would also have been beaming as his grandson, Matt Fischer, registered a natural hat trick to spur the No. 3-seeded Brainerd Warriors past the No...

Brainerd Warrior Gavin Andres (left) celebrates Matt Fischer’s hat trick against Bemidji Tuesday at the Essentia Health Sports Center. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch Gallery and Video
Brainerd Warrior Gavin Andres (left) celebrates Matt Fischer’s hat trick against Bemidji Tuesday at the Essentia Health Sports Center. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch Gallery and Video

David Wetterling would have been proud.

Wetterling, who died Sunday at Rochester Methodist Hospital, would also have been beaming as his grandson, Matt Fischer, registered a natural hat trick to spur the No. 3-seeded Brainerd Warriors past the No. 6 Bemidji Lumberjacks 4-1 in the quarterfinals of the Section 8-2A tournament Tuesday at Essentia Health Sports Center.

"Watching me play hockey was one of his favorite things to do," Fischer said. "I was blessed with, I think, the best grandpa you can ever have. He and I were very close. I'm extremely thankful for all the time I got to spend with him, all the memories.

"I definitely think he had a lot to do with tonight. Words can't describe the relationship we had. He and I were like best friends."

Warriors head coach Dave Aus said Fischer sent a text Monday to JV coach Ryan Sharpe and said he was going to use his grandfather's passing as motivation.

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"And he certainly did," Aus said. "I know his grandpa came to a lot of games here. It's another cancer loss. It's too bad. My mother-in-law passed last spring, same deal, but it's a little different when you're almost 50 (like Aus) compared to a kid that's 17 so he responded well. We need him Saturday again."

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Warriors 4, Bemidji 1

  • The key: Matt Fischer scored a natural hat trick (3 consecutive goals, uninterrupted, by any other player scoring for either team)
  • Overall: Brd 20-6, Bemidji finishes 10-16
  • Next: No. 3 Brainerd at No. 2 St. Michael-Albertville in Section 8-2A semifinals 7 p.m. Saturday. 

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The victory, Brainerd's third of the season against the Lumberjacks, pushed the Warriors into the semifinals 7 p.m. Saturday at second-seeded St. Michael-Albertville. The Knights beat Brainerd 4-1 in the second-to-last game of the regular season.

"We didn't play very well the last time we played them," Aus said. "That was about as poorly as we've played. I thought we were really good on Thursday (4-0 win over St. Cloud Tech/Apollo). I knew the way we responded Thursday that we would be OK tonight because they just did the job.

"Tonight we were really good. Their goal, give them credit, it was just a bad bounce off the glass, their guy makes a play, bottom line we win and that's all that matters."

Fischer pumped in the game's first three goals and collected an assist on Mason Kruse's third-period marker as Brainerd won for the ninth time in 10 games. The Warriors finished with a 34-18 edge in shots.

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Brainerd Warrior Boys Hockey vs. Bemidji

74 photos! - Klick here to view!

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Fischer said the hat trick was the first of his high school career. It couldn't have come at a better time.

"I owe it all to my teammates. They were great all way the through," Fischer said. "After hearing about my grandpa, they had my back. They were there for me. I owe it all to them.

"I think it was just the kind of night where I was feeling it. They were supportive all the way. I couldn't ask for better teammates."

After scoring his first goal, Fischer thrust his glove skyward.

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"Before the game I knew if I scored I was going to do that," Fischer said. "Like I said he was my biggest fan. That's something I'm going to miss, him cheering me on. That was definitely for him because tonight was all for him."

Fischer's scoring clinic continued in the second period as he scored twice within a 4-minute span. His second goal was with both teams a man short and traffic in front of Lumberjacks goalie Matt Fitzgerald. Fischer completed his hat trick with an unassisted shot under the crossbar at 15:13 of the second.

Tuesday's game marked the return of senior wing Jack Evans, one of the Warriors' leading scorers with 19 goals and 29 points, who missed the last four games with an upper-body injury. Evans skated a few shifts Tuesday and Aus said he should be ready for extended ice time Saturday.

"If it would have been tighter we would have played him more tonight," Aus said. "He will definitely be ready Saturday. We didn't have him against St. Michael and that's a big weapon.

"On one shift tonight, he made a great pass from behind the net to Riley (Andres). That's the kind of stuff he can do. He just makes our whole lineup better."

Warrior goalie Colin Kleffman was staunch in the crease. The only goal he allowed was a breakaway by Ryan Pogue with eight minutes left in the game. Kleffman faced only 18 shots but kicked away several quality chances.

"You can just see his confidence growing and growing, and on the puck," Aus said of Kleffman. "He just helps our defense so much by the plays he makes with the puck. It's not like they had a ton of opportunities but when they did he was good. The one they got was a great shot. You shake the kids' hand and go 'Nice shot.'"

 

Bemidji 0 0 1-1

Brainerd 1 2 1-4

First period: Brd-Matt Fischer (Westin Andres, Colin Kleffman) ppg 16:53

Second period: Brd-Fischer (Luke Johnson) 11:28; Brd-Fischer 15:13

Third period: Bem-Ryan Pogue (Joe Leitner) 9:00; Brd-Mason Kruse (Fischer) 12:15

Shots on goal: Brd 10-11-13--34, Bem 2-5-11-18

Goalies: Brd-Colin Kleffman (17 saves); Bem-Matt Fitzgerald (30 saves).

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