As the game kept going the Fergus Falls Otters kept getting stronger Tuesday, Feb. 23.
A flurry of second period goals capped off by Michael DeBrito’s game-winning goal in the third gave the Class 1A’s eighth-ranked Otters a 4-3 Central Lakes Conference win over the Brainerd Warriors.
DeBrito’s game-winner came 46 seconds after Brainerd’s Ares Soukup tied the game early in the third.
After that goal, the Warriors could not find the net despite holding the shots on goal lead.
Soukup had another chance to equalize with 7:30 left on a breakaway, but Otters goalie Ben Swanson made one of his 32 saves to keep the Otters in front.
With the net empty, Brainerd made two really good attempts to tie but was stoned by Swenson.
“They have a nice team, but we let them off the hook,” Warriors head coach Dave Aus said.
A shorthanded goal by Isaac Young late in the second period gave the Otters, who are now winners of 10 straight, their first lead 3-2.
It was Young’s second goal of the period as he scored to tie the game at 1-1 2:34 into the period.
The Warriors regained the lead with Alex Jones’ second goal assisted by Max Roby. The Otters tied it up on the power play when Matthew Niblock went top shelf to beat Warriors goalie Jed Klang.
“We can’t give up three goals in a period,” Aus said. “We gave up a shorty, then the game-winner the defenseman gambled and there’s no reason to do that.”
Penalties killed Brainerd in the second period as they suffered three. A roughing penalty at the end of the period gave the Otters a penalty to start the third. It came on a scrum with six seconds left.
“We just got sloppy and got away with what was the overall gameplan,” Aus said. “We just seemed like a step behind. Our guys have to learn that if we continue to do that we are going to get beat. You can’t be on the penalty kill the whole period.”
Brainerd got the scoring started with an unassisted goal by Alex Jones with under three minutes to go in the first period.
Jones’ goal came off an interception in Fergus Falls’ zone that he capitalized into a goal.
“Good players are in the right place at the right time and he’s really come a long way,” Aus said. “He’s gotten better and better and playing with a good line.”
The Warriors held a 9-8 shot advantage after one period with Klang making key saves to keep the scoresheet clean in the first.
Klang finished with 24 saves.
Each time Brainerd gained momentum the Otters answered in the second period.
“We got to give them credit,” Aus said. “That’s a mentally tough team to be able to bounce back like that after giving up goals.”
Brainerd drops its seventh game of the season with a trip to St. Cloud set for Thursday, Feb. 25. The hope is to get a couple of wins heading into sections.
“We have to be ready Thursday,” Aus said. “You never want to lose and learn a lesson in losing, but this might be a good lesson for our guys tonight — I hate to say it. If we are going to win, we have to be on all cylinders and play within ourselves.”
Fergus Falls 0 3 1 — 4
Brainerd 1 1 1 — 3
First period: Brd-Alex Jones 14:19
Second period: FF-Isaac Young (Owen Babolian) 2:34, Brd-Alex Jones (Max Roby) 5:26, FF-Matthew Niblock (Andrew Johnson) PPG 8:24, FF-Isaac Young (Michael DeBrito) SHG 15:18
Third period: Brd-Ares Soukup (Andrew Zuk) 2:10; FF-Michael DeBrito 2:56
Shots on goal: Brd 9-13-13 35, FF 8-12-8 28
Goalies: Brd-Jed Klang (24 saves); FF-Ben Swanson (32 saves)
Fergus Falls 4, Warriors 3
Key: Fergus Falls uses a three-goal second period to propel them to victory.
Conference: Brd 3-3 FF 6-1.
Overall: Brd 4-7, FF 10-1.
Next: Brainerd at St. Cloud 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.