Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka lost to the Brainerd Warriors three times during the regular season by a cumulative score of 31-12.
But the Robins gave North Division No. 1-seeded Brainerd a battle in Saturday's state championship game by playing the Warriors to a 4-4 stalemate through two periods. Then the unbeaten and defending state champion Warriors seized control by slapping in seven unanswered third-period goals to register an 11-4 victory and attain their second-straight title at Bloomington Jefferson High School.
"As it should be, this game was the toughest game we played all season," Warriors head coach Todd Person said. "Our starters played more minutes than we would have liked in the morning game (10-1 semifinal win over Rochester), which started to show during the second period when we had some mental lapses due to fatigue.
"Between the second and third period, the three senior captains (Cody Vleck, Jacob Heinlen, Jake Heikkenen) dug deep and gave us the third period we were looking for."
Heinlen and Heikkenen each provided two third-period goals with Vleck, Maddox Canon and Matt Allord scoring the others. Brainerd outshot the Robins 11-0 during the third and 37-7 for the game.
"Five minutes into the third period, Maddox Canon, with a nice pass from Tre'Von Otey, gave us the spark we needed," Person said. "Jake Heikkenen put in his fourth goal of the game nine seconds later to give us a two-goal cushion."
Person said North No. 2 seed Robbinsdale played a physical style with the game close to getting out of control at one point. Allord and Robbinsdale's Vincent Luu were already in the penalty box for offsetting roughing calls when another Robins player was sent to the penalty box.
"We were unable to convert on the man advantage, but we instead used the man advantage to rest a couple of players," Person said. "This allowed our starters to finish strong.
"After a delayed slashing penalty, Cody Vleck put a goal in followed by a power-play goal from Jacob Heinlen. The Robins had five penalties in the third period, which definitely helped us control the tempo as we were able to slow the game down."
Heikkenen finished with four goals and two assists. Allord accumulated four points and Vleck and Heinlen each had three. Heikkenen, Heinlen and Vleck were named to the all-tournament team for their performances over the weekend.
The Warriors outscored three state tournament foes 35-7 on their way to the fourth championship in program history.
Brainerd finished the season 16-0 and has won 31 straight games. Its last loss was in the state third-place game in 2016.
"This was a fantastic way to end a great season," Person said. "(Assistant) coach (Josh) Fordyce and I are extremely proud of how our team played this season, especially during the state tournament.
"We are also appreciative of all of the support from our players' families, fans and community members. Seeing all of the blue and white in the stands helps the players really understand what it means to be a part of Warrior Athletics."
Robbinsdale 0 4 0-4
Brainerd 2 2 7-11
First period: B-Cody Vleck (Matt Allord) 2:43; B- Blaise Edinger (Jake Heikkenen) 12:45
Second period: B-Heikkenen (Jacob Heinlen) 3:41; R-Sam Roles 5:05; R-Vincent Luu 6:35; R-Luu 8:37; B-Heikkenen (Vleck) 10:00; R-Calvin Gerdt (Brendan Bosker-Elliot) 13:59
Third period: B-Maddox Canon (Tre'Von Otey) 5:12; B-Heikkenen 5:21; B-Vleck 7:43; B-Jacob Heinlen (Allord) ppg 11:17; B-Heinlen 12:00; B-Heikkenen (Allord) 12:45; B-Allord (Heikkenen) 14:45
Shots on goal: Brd 13-13-11--37, R 2-5-0--7
Goalies: B-Karlee Schuler (3 saves); R-Hayley Engebretson (26 saves)
Overall: Brainerd finishes 16-0.
Brainerd 10, Rochester 1
South No. 2 Rochester nipped North No. 3 Anoka-Hennepin 7-6 in Friday's quarterfinals to earn a semifinal matchup against Brainerd, which handled South No. 4 Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville 15-2 in the quarterfinals.
Four points apiece from Heikkenen and Canon spurred the Warriors to a 10-1 semifinal victory over Rochester. Vleck and Otey each contributed three points. The teams were tied 1-1 early in the opening period. Brainerd proceeded to rattle off nine consecutive goals to secure the victory.
"Rochester continued to play hard (Saturday) morning," Person said. "They were good on the defensive end of the floor and were able to slow our kids down at the start of the game. After Tanner Dickinson made a nice move to score for Rochester, our players shut them down allowing only one more shot the entire game.
"After that goal, the three senior captains' leadership really was apparent on the floor. Jake Heikkenen put in three goals and had an assist, while Cody Vleck continued his solid performance with three points.
"Eighth-graders Maddox Canon and Tre'Von Otey came in and gave us some quality minutes and a handful of goals while Spencer Thompson and Blaise Edinger backed them up to keep Rochester out of our zone for the last period."
Rochester 1 0 0-1
Brainerd 3 4 3-10
First period: B-Cody Vleck (Matt Allord) 3:00; R-Tanner Dickinson (Toriano) 3:53; B-Blaise Edinger (Vleck) 5:55; B-Jake Heikkenen (Jacob Elias) 8:57
Second period: B-Allord (Heikkenen) 3:16; B-Heikkenen (Vleck) 7:17; B-Tre'Von Otey (Maddox Canon) 10:43; B-Canon 11:00
Third period: B-Heikkenen 2:30; B-Otey (Canon) 4:30; B-Canon (Otey) 6:15
Shots on goal: Brd 12-18-8--38, R 2-0-1--3
Goalies: Brd-Karlee Schuler (2 saves); R-Dayne Bailey (32 saves)