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Girls Hockey: Warriors state bound with narrow win over Spuds

Brainerd/Little Falls played Moorhead in the Section 8-2A Final Thursday, Feb. 17, at Fergus Falls Ice Arena

Brainerd/Little Falls Hockey celebrate win over Moorhead
The Brainerd/Little Falls Hockey team celebrates their win over Moorhead Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Fergus Falls.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

FERGUS FALLS — The Warriors are going back to state.

Brynne Folden scored the game-winning goal for Brainerd/Little Falls at the 6:06 mark of the third period to get a 2-1 victory over the top-seeded Moorhead Spuds in the Section 8-2A Finals Thursday, Feb. 17, at Fergus Falls Ice Arena.

Folden stole the puck in the Warriors’ offensive zone and buried the unassisted goal which would send the Warriors back to state.

“Just super proud of Brynne Folden,” first-year Warriors head coach Tate Rusk said. “She’s a captain and has really stepped up this year. I remember having her as a freshman and she comes with such a fire in her eyes every night and the type of girl you want in your locker room.”

Brainerd/Little Falls Hockey celebrate a goal against Moorhead.
Brainerd/Little Falls players celebrate a goal by Riah Stroot against Moorhead Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Fergus Falls.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Folden said she had no doubt they would walk away with the section title.

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“I could feel the momentum shift and we definitely needed it,” she said. “I’ve never been to a state tournament and it’s always been my dream since I was a little kid. So this is everything I’ve ever wanted.”

BLF goalie Breya Sawyer stopped 26 of 27 shots as the Spuds outshot the Warriors 27-24.

“Sawyer hands down had a huge impact on this game tonight,” Rusk said. “We knew coming in this team likes to get pucks on the net and have a lot more goals they average than us. Breya knew this was going to be a battle tonight and I’m super proud of her.”

Sawyer collected big stops when the Spuds had their extra attacker on the ice the last 90 seconds.

GALLERY

“I’m just telling myself that my team has it,” Sawyer said. “I had a bunch of confidence in them and after we scored that second one I knew we could keep them in there and I just knew my team had my back.”

It didn’t take long for the scoring to start as BLF struck first 1:33 in the first when Riah Stroot scored an unassisted goal.

“We all knew as a team that that goal was not going to win the hockey game,” Rusk said. “We just had to keep preaching to our girls to keep doing the little things.”

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The Warriors’ 1-0 lead lasted all but a minute and eight seconds as Moorhead’s Bria Holm scored on an assist from Taylor Brueske to tie it 1-1.

Brainerd/Little Falls girls hockey take on the Moorhead Spuds Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, during the Section 8-2A Section Final in Fergus Falls.
The Moorhead Spuds celebrate after a goal by Bria Holm against the Warriors Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, during the Section 8-2A Section Final in Fergus Falls.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“You just have to forget about the goals that you let in and keep moving forward,” Sawyer said.”

BLF suffered two too many players on the ice penalties in the first period, but killed both Spud power plays.

“We just talked with the girls that we needed to have a level head on the bench,” Rusk said. “We had some confusion with changes and when you are tired and running 100 miles per hour the brains tend to shut off a bit, so I told the girls they had to have the brains on and keep it simple.”

Midway through the second period, the Warriors had their first power-play chance and got six shots on goal but couldn’t get one in the back of the net.

“The name of the game for us the last month has been getting pucks to the net,” Rusk said. “I thought in the last few weeks or so we’ve been doing a good job of that.”

After the Warriors were unsuccessful on another power play, BLF was short handed but Avery LeMieur had a breakaway stopped by Moorhead goalie Taylor Kressin. Kressin finished with 22 saves.

It was a scoreless second period with shots on goal being an even 10-10.

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The Warriors are headed to state for the first time since 2019. They will play in the Class 2A State Quarterfinals Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Xcel Energy Center.

“I owe a lot to Jack Freeman,” Rusk said of the former head coach and now Brainerd activities director. “Watching him for two years and now being our AD, it’s just a lot about who you surround yourself with.”

Moorhead 1 0 0 — 1

Brainerd/LF 1 0 1 — 2

First period: BLF-Riah Stroot 1:33, M-Bria Holm (Taylor Brueske) 2:41

Third period: BLF-Brynne Folden 6:06

Shots on goal: BLF 4-10-10 24, M 11-10-6 27

Goalies: BLF-Breya Sawyer (26 saves); M-Taylor Kressin (22 saves)

Warriors 2, Moorhead 1
Key: Brynne Folden with the game-winner in the third period. Breya Sawyer with 26 saves in net.
Overall: BLF 17-11, M 20-9.
Next: BLF in Class 2A State Quarterfinals TBA Thursday, Feb. 24.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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