Sophie Robinson had all the confidence in her goalie Thursday, Nov. 21.
The senior defender said she didn’t play any different despite having freshman Emily Johnson starting her first varsity game in net for the Brainerd/Little Falls Warriors.
Johnson didn’t disappoint as she kicked away 16 shots and helped the Warriors to a 5-1 Central Lakes Conference victory over the River Lakes Stars at Essentia Health Sports Center in Brainerd.
“I just wanted to play good for her and make sure she got acclimated,” Robinson said. “She’s really good herself so she didn’t need me to do anything extra special. I just needed to play my game and she was going to play hers and we knew it would be OK.”
Johnson held the Stars at bay for the first two periods with 11 saves.
“There’s not much to say,” BLF head coach Jack Freeman said. “At the beginning of the game, you go over who is in the lineup that night and they all knew it was her first varsity start. There was a big cheer when we announced her number to start. They were excited. They wanted to play well for her.”
A flurry of activity erupted in the third period starting with Lindsey Booth’s first goal of the game. The senior forward caught River Lakes on a shift change. She stole the puck in the Stars’ zone and flipped the puck up and over River Lakes goalie Kaydence Roeske for a 3-0 Warriors edge.
A minute later, however, Johnson’s bid for a shutout ended when Brooke Lemke stole the puck at center ice and skated unimpeded toward Johnson. Lemke, River Lakes’ second leading scorer, delayed her shot just enough to find an opening and put the Stars on the board.
Gabbie Smith answered a minute later with her blast at the 7:31 mark. It was Smith’s seventh goal of the season. Robinson and Shaylee Stroot assisted on the play. Both players finished with two assists.
Robinson’s other assist set up BLF’s final goal on a two-player disadvantage. Lindsey Booth skated around the net and snuck the puck past Roeske for the 5-1 final.
“We’ve always said our third period is our best period,” Robinson said. “We just leave it all on the ice and that’s how it goes.”
Neither team took advantage of power-play opportunities in the second period. BLF rattled off 16 shots in the middle frame, but Roeske, a seventh grader, was up to the task.
“It’s easy to get frustrated, but we just had to play our game and we knew we would get them in,” Robinson said. “We just wanted to concentrate on defense and make sure they didn’t get anything.”
B/LF opened the scoring on an Emma Booth rebound 10 minutes into the first period. The Warriors skated out to a 3-on-2 advantage with Gabbie Smith leading in the pack. She passed back to Josie Kramer who fired a shot deflected by Roeske, but Booth was there for the rebound and put back.
Five minutes later, Emma Smith created enough space in front of the River Lakes’ net to fire in the Warriors’ second goal and hand BLF a 2-0 lead after one period.
“They did things to slow us down and they competed hard in the defensive zone,” Freeman said of his former team in the Stars. “I thought their goaltender, only a seventh grader, she made some big saves for them and kept it tight there in the second.”
The victory moves Brainerd to 1-0 in the conference. It’s BLF’s 12th straight conference win.
“With the success that this team has had, anytime you play a team in the conference, you’re going to have a target on your back,” Freeman said. “We know the opposing team is going to be up for us and they’re going to give us their absolute best. That’s what we told the girls. We needed to be up and ready to go and I thought we had a slow start, but then we settled in.”
For more photos of the Warrior girls hockey game against River lakes go to https://bit.ly/2qr1HOs.
River Lakes 0 0 1 -- 1
Brainerd/LF 2 0 3 -- 5
First period: BLF-Emma Booth (Gabbie Smith, Josie Kramer) 6:59: BLF-Emma Smith (Gabbie Smith, Emma Booth) 11:34
Third period: BLF-Lindsey Booth (Brynne Folden, Shaylee Stroot) 5:05; RL-Brooke Lemke 6:18; BLF-Gabbie Smith (Sophie Robinson, Stroot) 7:31; BLF-Lindsey Booth (Robinson) shg 8:16
Shots on goal: BLF 12-16-11 -- 39 , RL 6-5-6 -- 17
Power plays: BLF 0-3, RL 0-4
Goalies: BLF-Emily Johnson (16 saves); RL-Kaydence Roeske (34 saves)
Warriors 5, River Lakes 1
Key: Four different Warriors scored goals and Emily Johnson made 16 saves
Conf: BLF 1-0, RL 0-1
Overall: BLF 3-1, RL 2-2
Next: Brainerd/Little Falls at Forest Lake 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23