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Boys Hockey: Warriors top Lightning for 1st win

The Brainerd Warriors faced off with the Northern Lakes Lightning.

Brainerd boys hockey at Northern Lakes in Breezy Point
Brainerd goalie Brody Lund lunges for the puck in the first period of the Warriors' 4-1 victory over Northern Lakes on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022.
Dan Determan / Echo Journal
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BREEZY POINT — A loud, packed house was split almost down the middle, but the road team fans cheered last as the Brainerd Warriors picked up their first win of the season and snapped a three-game losing streak in a 4-1 win over the Northern Lakes Lightning on Thursday, Dec. 8.

“We were hard on the forecheck. We were physical and got a lot of shots on net,” Warrior head coach Howie Borden said. “It was nice to have a game where we scored more than two goals. We have been putting 25 to 35 shots on the net a game, but just not finding the back of the net. I’m very happy with the effort.”

The two teams combined for 16 penalties, with each team committing eight.

“We played out of sorts,” Lightning head coach Erik Vetsch said. “There was a lot of emotion. Our kids really want to prove themselves as being a big-time hockey program up here – you could just feel it all week. I’m trying to remind them to play within themselves and not be all wound up … You saw us lose our heads out there a little bit.”

After each team successfully killed a penalty in the early minutes, the Lightning found their way on the scoreboard first with an even-strength goal off the stick of sophomore Finnegan Fogarty, assisted by Wyatt Balmer.

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The Warriors answered shortly thereafter when they caught Lightning goalie Nigel DeSanto out of position with an even-strength goal by forward Kyle Koop and the teams went into the first intermission tied at one goal each.

Penalties were commonplace in the second period, which began with Brainerd being called for a five-minute major penalty, but an aggressive penalty kill unit kept the Lightning in check and the Warriors even managed to capitalize on offense, with John Finnegan scoring an unassisted short-handed goal to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead.

A holding call on Northern Lakes gave the Lightning penalty kill unit an opportunity to show its prowess – keeping Brainerd out of the net – and the Warriors were called for tripping almost immediately after their power play ended. However, the Warriors again stifled the Lightning's man advantage.

A skirmish at the end of the second period led to the Lightning kicking off the final period on the penalty kill, which once again was successful.

“It was a special teams second and third period,” Borden said. “It was good for us. At the beginning of the year, sometimes your special teams aren’t dialed in right away … but I thought our (penalty) kill did a dang good job to contain. Our power play had a lot of chances, but their goalie played well and stopped a lot of big shots, so kudos to him.”

A check from behind into the boards just over four minutes into the third period meant the Lightning had a man in the box for five minutes. Goalie Nigel DeSanto stopped a number of shots in that time to keep the deficit at just one goal.

Brady Johnson picked up a goal late in the third period for the Warriors on a two-against-one breakaway to seal the victory, and an empty-netter by Kade Stengrim wrapped the scoring for the Warriors.

Vetsch, in his first season as coach of the Lightning, said he would like to see penalties reduced moving forward.

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“We can’t do that,” Vetsch said. “That’s not our game and that’s not how we should be playing. We just have to learn from it and move on.”

Warrior goalie Brody Lund tallied 24 saves, while DeSanto stopped 16 shots for the Lightning.

“Our record leading into this game was not any signal of the kind of hockey we are playing,” Borden said. “It was just nice to finally have a game where we’re playing the same brand of hockey we have been playing, but things bounced our way.”

Northern Lakes 1 0 0 — 1

Brainerd 1 1 2 — 4

First period: NL-Finnegan Fogarty (Wyatt Balmer) 8:41; Brd-Kyle Koop (Mitch Brau) 12:11

Second period: Brd-John Finnegan shg 3:56

Third period: Brd-Brady Johnson (Finnegan, Dylan Wikoff) 14:40; Brd-Kade Stengrim (Chad King) Empty Net 15:41

Shots on goal: Brd 20, NL 25

Goalies: Brd-Brody Lund (24 saves); NL-Nigel DeSanto (16 saves)

Overall: Brd 1-3, NL 1-2. Next: Brainerd hosts Fergus Falls 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13; Northern Lakes at Breckenridge/Wahpeton 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9.

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