A quick start propelled the St. Michael-Albertville Knights over the Brainerd Warriors 5-2 in a Section 8-2A game Tuesday, Jan. 14, at Essentia Health Sports Center.
Conner Couet scored by the blueline to put the Knights up 1-0 at the 2:27 mark. A minute later Luc Laylin scored his first goal of the period and followed it up with an unassisted goal at the 8:27 mark.
The Knights started the game with a shot advantage of 11-0 and the Warriors did not get their first shot on net until the 9:47 mark of the first.
“When you are on the road you are always looking for a good first 17 minutes,” STMA head coach Jerr Peterson said. “This was a big section game and we know how they play here. They are tough and we got those three quick ones and settled in a little bit.”
Warriors head coach Dave Aus was displeased with how his team came out flat on its home ice.
“I don’t know what happened, we were just flat,” Aus said. “Certainly, against them, and we just said that, if we are going to be able to beat them at some point in the playoffs. We got to hold them off the board and wear them down.
“They play three guys mostly, so they get tired a lot. We did not help our goalie at all tonight and I feel worse for him because we just hung him out to dry at the beginning of the game.”
Jed Klang went in the net for Luke Saiko to start the second period and kept the Knights scoreless for the second period.
Aus said despite Saiko’s struggles lately he still expects him to play big for them down the stretch.
“It’s not Luke’s fault,” Aus said of pulling him. “He is a team guy and he gets it. But he’s struggling. I asked him as we were heading out to the second period and stood with him for a couple of minutes and he told me ‘I’ve never had a point where I’m struggling the way I am.’ He’ll fight his way through it. We are not going to quit on him. We did not lose the game tonight because of our goalies.”
Saiko tallied nine saves and Klang snatched 15 saves for the Warriors.
Eric Pohlkamp put the Warriors on the scoreboard with 52 seconds left in the second period with a power-play goal.
The Warriors outshot the Knights 8-7 in the second period, which featured two minor penalties on both sides.
“I think we decided we were going to come out and play a little bit,” Aus said of the second period. “We did not give them as many good looks. We get on the power play and we had two goals there tonight. We had a lot of chances tonight where we just got outmuscled. We just are not finishing.”
STMA started the third period on the power play and converted with one second left on it at the 1:38 mark. Cody Kelly scored from the blueline to net his second point off an assist from Couet.
“Our top unit on our power play has been tremendous all year,” Peterson said. “Even if we did not score we knew we were probably going to have some good looks.”
Adam Flammang also assisted on Kelly’s goal and followed it up with an unassisted goal a few minutes later giving the Knights a 5-1 lead.
Things got testy with about seven minutes. Both teams started pushing and shoving behind the Knights’ net. Two roughing penalties were given to each team and a slashing penalty to Knights’ goalie Aaron Loch, who finished with 21 saves.
“It was just frustration,” Aus said of the scrum. “We can’t spray the goalie and I don’t blame their guys for what they did. On our end, it's just guys trying to make stuff happen and it worked out because we got on the power play. But it’s just stuff you don’t want to do and immature plays.”
The slashing penalty gave the Warriors a 4-on-3 advantage. Haden Kruse capitalized to score a power-play goal and get his second point.
“We are not that bad,” Aus said. “We just shoot ourselves in the foot a lot. We are not always trusting what we are supposed to be doing system-wise and that gets us in a little trouble.
“We’ve got to decide if we are going to compete the whole game. We have done it three or four times this year and when we do, we usually fair pretty well. We’ve got to have 20 guys on board.”
For more photos of the game with St. Michael-Albertville go to https://bit.ly/36SH4us.
STMA 3 0 2 -- 5
Brainerd 0 1 1 -- 1
First period: STMA-Conner Couet (Will Anderson, Joey Robinson) 2:27; STMA-Luc Laylin (Cody Kelly, Casy Laylin) 3:37; STMA-Luc Laylin (unassisted) 8:29
Second period: Brd-Eric Polhkamp (Haden Kruse) PP 16:08
Third period: STMA-Kelly (Couet, Adam Flammang) PP 1:38; STMA-Flammang (unassisted) 4:07; Brd-Haden Kruse (Ian Aadland) PP 11:42
Shots on goal: Brd 6-8-9 23, STMA 12-7-10 28
Goalies: Brd-Luke Saiko (9 saves), Jed Klang (15 saves); STMA-Aaron Loch (21 saves)
STMA 5, Warriors 2
Key: 3-0 first period lead was enough for STMA to cruise to a section win.
Overall: Brd 5-9-1, STMA 7-6-3.
Next: Brainerd at Duluth East 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17.