Commentary: A 4-overtime epic: A game for the ages

I've covered a 4-overtime boys basketball game at Crosby-Ironton. I've covered a section championship baseball game decided by two grand slams--off or over the scoreboard at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud. I've covered Brainerd Warrior football tea...

I've covered a 4-overtime boys basketball game at Crosby-Ironton.

I've covered a section championship baseball game decided by two grand slams-off or over the scoreboard at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud.

I've covered Brainerd Warrior football teams stunning metro powerhouses like Eden Prairie, Wayzata and Cretin-Derham Hall.

I can now add Friday's 4-overtime Section 8-2A girls hockey championship struggle between the Brainerd/Little Falls Warriors and Roseau to that list of great events. It was one of the most dramatic, emotional, draining sporting events I've ever seen.

Nearly 100 minutes of up and down hockey before Roseau won 3-2. Goaltenders Olivia King of BLF and Kiana Flaig of Roseau literally stood on their heads throughout the tussle.


If your heart wasn't beating at a rapid pace watching the effort these young ladies exerted, you might want to have your ticker checked.

It was pandemonium. The Bemidji Community Arena couldn't have been a better venue for this section final and the barn was jammed with boisterous fans. Because of the din, it was almost impossible to hear the public address announcer all game. As a result, I didn't find out until Saturday how many shots each team had fired until it was posted on Minnesota Girls Hockey Hub.

Roseau outshot the Warriors 51-46. King stopped 48 shots, Flaig 44.

"The pressure on everyone was tremendous but obviously the pressure on the goalies was probably 10-fold," Warriors coach Jim Ernster said Sunday. "Olivia stood tall. She stayed composed the whole night. It's a credit to her that she was able to make the saves she did. She was rock solid."

Through 51 minutes of regulation time, shots were 30-28 for Roseau. BLF outshot the Rams 3-2 in the first overtime, 8-4 in the second, 4-3 in the third.

"I watched a little film when I got back," Ernster said, "and man, you could see in the pace of game-both teams were just slow-paced, slow-decision making. I was exhausted on the bench. My heart just about jumped through my chest. I can't imagine what it would have been like actually having to go out and skate and think.

"No doubt it was an epic event. Quite a few months from now I may be able to look upon it and glean something positive from it. My heart goes out to those kids, that's what it boils down to. Coaching-wise you feel so bad for this group of girls because they poured their heart and soul into it that night."

Roseau outshot the Warriors 12-3 in the fourth overtime, finally winning it on Ella Helgeson's unassisted goal with 1:20 remaining until a fifth overtime would have been necessary. Helgeson gathered the puck deep in the BLF zone and roofed a shot over King that sent the Roseau crowd into a frenzy, and Warrior fans into stunned silence.


These young ladies fell 80 seconds shy of playing two complete hockey games back to back. They were exhausted. It's a terrible sports cliche but neither team deserved to lose this one.

It was a physical as well as an emotional struggle. In regulation, 13 penalties were whistled, seven on the Warriors. Three penalties were for checking. Incredibly, neither team scored a power-play goal.

Body checking may be illegal in girls hockey but in this game players were stapled against the boards, flattened on the ice, crashed into each other. It was a titanic physical struggle.

The contest put an exclamation point on the greatest season in the 20-year history of girls hockey in Brainerd which has been paired with Little Falls for the last nine years. It was an absolute delight and privilege to have covered this team all season.

You might see this program in section finals again soon. Only five seniors will graduate-Ally Smith, Brooke Watland, Kennedy Rusk, Abby Thelen and Mara Roberts. Many of these Warriors were sophomores and eighth- and ninth-graders.

"Skill-wise, we should be able to put ourselves in a position to be successful," Ernster said. "The biggest question mark is going to be who steps up and becomes the leader of the groups coming back. That's one thing you can't quantify athletically is leadership skills.

"This group of five senior girls that's been leading us all year unfortunately might have been a once-in-a-coaching-career-type group. They're that solid, that level-headed. They went about it that it's not about us, it's about our team."

To this group of lady Warriors I end with this final thought-You might have lost that section final and I know you are devastated. It may be little consolation but you are champions despite the score.

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