Adapted Floor Hockey: Warriors hunt to reclaim state title
Brainerd Warriors to be in the Adapted Floor Hockey state tournament March 17-18
BRAINERD — It’s been a while since the Brainerd Warriors entered the state floor hockey tournament as not the defending champions.
That will be the case this year as the Warriors lost to Dakota United in the state finals 5-2 last year which snapped a 65-game win straight for Brainerd.
With Brainerd, the top seed in the North, and Dakota United, the top seed in the South, the two teams could see each other in the finals again Saturday, March 18.
First Brainerd opens the state tournament 5 p.m. Friday, March 17, against the St. Paul Humboldt Hawks, the No. 4 seed in the South, at Bloomington Jefferson High School.
“One of the benefits of being the No. 1 seed is you get to face the No. 4 seed,” Person said. “When we were the No. 2 or No. 3 seed we had some battles in that Friday night game. Knowing that the Friday game is going to be a little easier for us — we can rest some players and hopefully get a lead Saturday morning to have some left in the tank in the finals.”
If the Warriors win they will face the winner of Rochester, the No. 2 seed in the South, and Anoka-Hennepin, the No. 3 seed in the North.
“Both teams had some solid players,” Person said. “Both times when we played Anoka and Rochester our defense played really well and just shut them down. That’ll be paramount for us to get the lead we need.”
The state semifinals are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 18, with the finals scheduled the same day at 2:30 p.m. All games are at Bloomington Jefferson High School.
As for that state final rematch, the Warriors beat Dakota United 2-0 on Feb. 2 which helped Brainerd finish an undefeated 8-0 in the regular season.
“We did the same last year,” Warriors head coach Todd Person said. “Beat them in the regular season. It was a really close game when we played them in February.”
One of the keys is rest. The Warriors will need to win three games in less than 24 hours to reclaim the state title. Last year, Brainerd had seven players. This year the team is 10 deep.
“It’s physically taxing to play three games in 24 hours like that,” Person said. “Last year, with seven players it was difficult. With 10 players this year, we have some options coming off the bench which we hope is going to be a benefit for us.”
Brainerd’s leading goal-scorer has been seventh-grader Aiden Olsen. Olsen has notched goals in all, but one game to finish the regular season with 18.
“He’s stepped into the center role and done a nice job,” Person said. “We were talking in practice that we have a real luxury that we have four players who can put the puck in the back of the net from anywhere on the floor.”
Senior Cadence Atwater and freshman Owen Olsen each tallied 12 goals apiece heading into the state tournament.
Atwater switched positions to play defenseman this season. She racked six assists to total 18 points.
“That’s been a huge thing for us because she can really control the floor,” Person said. “She’s got a good sense of where she needs to be out there and cover when she needs to step up in the zone. She had five goals in our last game and has been a really great player.”
Aiden Olsen is the points leader with 30 and Owen Olsen’s 14 assists gives him 26 points just behind his younger brother.
In net, Andrew Kargel has recorded 116 saves on 127 shots. He’s allowed just 11 goals and helped the Warriors hold a 59-11 goals-scored advantage over opponents through eight games.
“Andrew has been phenomenal this year,” Person said. “He’s so calm and when he is in net he doesn’t let anything rattle him if there is a big mess in front of him. He does a nice job of following the puck and it’s nice to know that if we get beat on defense from time to time he’s there to back us up.”
The Warriors have two seniors in Atwater and Hunter Zilka. Zilka scored two goals and dished eight assists so far.
“Zilka has done a nice job this year,” Person said. “He’s shown a lot more aggression than he has in the last few years, which has been a huge spark for us.”
While it’s anticipated the Warriors will see Dakota United in the state finals, Person said Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Westonka/St. Louis Park, the No. 2 seed in the North, was one of the strongest teams Brainerd played in the regular season.
“Of all the teams we played, Robbinsdale was the most improved,” Person said. “They’ll most likely play Dakota and so we are hopeful they’ll give Dakota a tough game before the finals.”
State Floor Hockey
Matchups: No. 1 Brainerd vs. No. 4 St. Paul Humboldt, No. 2 Rochester vs. No. 3 Anoka-Hennepin, No. 1 Dakota United vs. No. 4 Maple Grove, No. 2 Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Westonka/St. Louis Park vs. No. 3 Minneapolis South.
Time: 5 p.m.
Date: Friday, March 17
Where: Bloomington Jefferson High School
Other notes: Semifinals scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and finals scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.