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Girls Hockey: Warriors open with milestone win at state. No. 3 Brainerd advances to face No. 2 Andover in semifinals

Cheyenne Abear celebrates after scoring what would end up being the game-winning goal for the Brainerd/Little Falls Warriors in the Class 2A State Quarterfinals Thursday, Feb. 21 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Warriors defeated White Bear Lake 4-0 to advance to the championship semifinals. Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!1 / 2
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ST. PAUL—An unforgettable winning goal led to a milestone victory for Brainerd/Little Falls as the Warriors earned the first state tournament win in program history with a 4-0 shutout over the White Bear Lake Bears in the Class 2A state quarterfinals Thursday, Feb. 21, at Xcel Energy Center.

That memorable goal came just 5:51 into the game when senior Cheyenne Abear took a pass off the boards from Gabbie Smith and moved around a defenseman, skated in alone and backhanded a shot past a stretched out WBL goaltender Calla Frank to make it 1-0.

"The defenseman backed up too far and I was able to slip around her," said Abear, who added that she learned the move watching YouTube. "It also helped that I had a stickhandling coach when I was younger."

Besides being a highlight play, it was an important goal to open the scoring against Frank, who had just registered three-straight shutouts in the Section 4-2A tournament.

"We stressed that we needed to get a good start and use our speed to win races to the puck," said Warrior coach Jim Ernster. "Any time you can score first it's a huge advantage. We also did that in our Section 8-2A final win (over North Wright County)."

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Warriors 4, White Bear Lake 0

  • Key: Warriors earn first state hockey tournament win in program history
  • Overall: Brd 24-4-1, WBL 13-13-3
  • Next: No. 3 Brainerd vs. No. 2 Andover in state semifinals, 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

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B/LF maintained pressure in the offensive end and extended the lead to 2-0 later in the period when Olivia Wiskow won the faceoff and pulled the puck back to Ella Kalusche, who fired a low shot that slipped past Frank at 10:21.

"That (shot) ramped up my stick," Frank explained. "I usually stop those shots, but I give (B/LF) credit because they capitalized on their chances."

The Warriors had the game's first power play one minute after the second goal. They had a good scoring chance on that extra-skater advantage when Abear tried to stuff in a shot from the side of the net.

WBL didn't have a quality scoring chance on its power play to close out the period, which B/LF dominated 15-1 in shots.

The Bears had one of their best scoring chances in the first minute of the second period, but couldn't score as the puck was laying in front of the Warrior net for almost four seconds.

B/LF quickly moved to the other end and took advantage of another chance when Abear skated in and took a shot that Frank stopped, but the rebound came to Gabbie Smith and she deposited the puck in the net to make it 3-0 at 1:51. Taylor Larson also had an assist on the goal.

WBL had a goal waived off with 10:40 remaining in the middle session when Warrior goaltender Olivia King was lying on her back in front of the net and the officials blew the whistle after losing sight of the puck, which trickled loose and was poked into the net.

The Warriors continued to pressure the Bears' net with back-to-back power plays to end the period. Their dominance was displayed on the scoreboard as B/LF enjoyed a 28-4 edge in shots after two periods.

The Warriors continued to control the shots on goal in the third period, although WBL did have a great scoring opportunity with 14:30 remaining when King made two big saves from close range against the Bears' leading scorer Sydney Shearen. King also made three admirable stops on a WBL power play midway through the final period.

Brainerd closed out the scoring when Shaylee Stroot passed across the crease to Emma Booth, who deflected the puck into the corner of the net to make it 4-0 with 1:29 remaining. Lucy Peterson also assisted on the goal, which was reviewed to see if Booth had kicked the puck in the net.

"It would have been easy to throw in the towel, but our girls don't quit," said WBL coach Jerry Kwapick. "We just needed more shots and to crash the net harder. I do give (B/LF) credit, they played great defense and kept us to the outside (of the rink)."

The Warriors finished with a 39-12 edge in shots as King earned her fifth shutout of the season.

"It seems like I've been here a long time," said King, a fifth-year goaltender. "So I know that we've worked a long time for (a victory at state). But we're back to work tomorrow."

Third-seeded B/LF advances to the semifinals to face the No. 2 Andover Huskies, who skated past Farmington 7-1 in the quarterfinals. Last year, Andover trailed the Warriors 3-0 before rallying for a 4-3 overtime win in the state consolation semifinals.

"The experience of being here last year, and playing (Andover) helps," King said. "And this (quarterfinal) win gives us even more confidence."

White Bear Lake 0 0 0—0

Brainerd/LF 2 1 1—4

First period: Brd-Cheyenne Abear (Gabbie Smith) 5:51; Brd-Ella Kalusche (Olivia Wiskow) 10:21

Second period: Brd-Gabbie Smith (Abear, Taylor Larson) 1:51

Third period: Brd-Emma Booth (Shaylee Stroot, Lucy Peterson) 15:31

Shots on goal: BLF 39, WBL 12

Goalies: BLF-Olivia King (12 saves); WBL-Calla Frank (35 saves)