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Warriors Athlete of Week: Warriors Rusk sings praises of his goalie

Breya Sawyer is perfect in the month of February leading to her being named Warrior Athlete of the Week.

Girls in hockey uniform
Breya Sawyer balances pucks on her hockey stick Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, during practice at the Essentia Health Sports Center.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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It’s a common belief, one proven a few times over hockey’s history, that goalies are a little unique.

Whether it’s strange pre-game routines or superstitions or in-game antics, a goalie can sometimes appear off. Brainerd/Little Falls goalie Breya Sawyer, however, has been anything but off for the Warrior girls hockey team lately.

The Warriors are perfect in the month of February with a pair of 1-0 victories over St. Cloud and Fergus Falls as well as a 2-1 win over Sartell/Sauk Rapids in the Section 8-2A Quarterfinals Saturday, Feb. 12.

Sawyer showed up with an 11-save performance in BLF’s 2-1 victory to start the section playoffs.

“I still feel the pressure of playoff games,” Sawyer said. “It’s worse now than when I was a freshman because just being on the bench for when we made it to state you just crave the feeling of making it there again. We have a good shot at making it again, just like we do every year, but it gets worse every year. I’m just so excited to play.”

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In the 1-0 victory over St. Cloud Feb. 4 that secured the Warriors’ No. 3 seed in the section playoffs, Sawyer finished with 26 saves for her then fourth shutout of the season.

“She’s been the main reason we’ve won some games here late,” Warriors head coach Tate Rusk said. “For example, the St. Cloud game she posted a shutout there. I think she had 26 shots on goal that game and then the Fergus Falls game, they’re a top 15 ranked 1A team, and she stood on her head for that one. I don’t have the number of shots she faced in that game, but posted a shutout there.”

During the regular-season finale against Fergus Falls Feb. 8, Sawyer again secured the shutout for her fifth clean sheet.

“I thought the whole team was just playing really well,” Sawyer said. “When you get a shutout it’s not just the goalie, but a reflection of the whole team.”

“She is a phenomenal singer. She’s got a heck of a voice on her. She loves to sing and hands down she has a voice on her. I always tell her that if hockey doesn’t work out she has a future in singing.”
Tate Rusk

As for being a bit unique in her approach, Sawyer isn’t sure she fits the normal mold.

“I’d have to ask someone that,” Sawyer said with a laugh. “I don’t really know what I do that’s off.”

Sawyer’s pre-game routines are pretty normal. Before she hits the ice she thinks about her team and teammates and she says playing for them gets her excited to hit the ice. Once she hits the ice it’s all focus for the three-year varsity starter.

But Sawyer does have her differences. At 5-foot-4, she’s shorter than most of her counterparts.

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“I’m pretty short for a goalie, I would say,” Sawyer said. “In some cases it is a disadvantage because when you go down in your butterfly you have the whole top to shoot at, but I’m close to the ground so I get down faster.”

Rusk said Sawyer is quick with her pads and is fundamentally sound. He also likes her level-headed, calm demeanor. He stressed how coachable she is.

During a rough end to January which saw the Warriors drop five straight, Sawyer finished with 12 saves in a 2-1 loss at Roseau, 23 saves in a 1-0 loss to Moorhead and 38 saves in a 2-1 loss to Alexandria. Sawyer didn’t play the first two games of the streak.

“With Breya, especially based on the weeks of practice you watch her working, she really only had maybe a week out of the season where she gave us a little bit of a question mark,” Rusk said. “We had a talk with her and she responded well to it and she came back great. As far as worrying, she’s a third-year varsity player and I have expectations, but I don’t worry about her too much. I have a lot of confidence in her.”

In 24 games, Sawyer owns a .910 save percentage with a 2.00 goals-against average. She’s collected 5 shutouts.

In 19 games as a sophomore, Sawyer finished with a 10-4-1 record with a 1.23 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage. She finished with two shutouts.

“That’s kind of hard to say whether the game is slower for me now, because you play with different girls every year,” Sawyer said. “I think the experience helps and makes it seem like it’s more of your level, but I don’t know.”

As a freshman, she went 9-8 in the regular season with a 1.83 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. She posted three shutouts. She went 2-1 in the section playoffs.

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One area Rusk asked Sawyer to improve on is communicating more with her defense. Sawyer said she’s been working on it. And if Rusk can’t hear her barking out directions, he might hear her singing.

Yes, singing. Sawyer is a star when it comes to singing the National Anthem. She’s performed the anthem twice before Minnesota Timberwolves games and admits she does sing during games.

“Just sometimes it’s whatever is playing on the public address speakers,” She said. ”Sometimes it helps me get my mind off a goal or something like that.

“I don’t sing all the time like I used to, but I do sing the National Anthem every so often for other things like boxing matches, a wrestling tournament and the State of the Band for Mille Lacs.”

Said Rusk: “She is a phenomenal singer. She’s got a heck of a voice on her. She loves to sing and hands down she has a voice on her. I always tell her that if hockey doesn’t work out she has a future in singing.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Other notable performances

Thomas Ruhl, boys swimming and diving, won the 100-yard backstroke and was part of the 200 medley and 200 free relays which broke the conference record at the Central Lakes Conference Championship.

Brenna Deason, gymnastics, was the Section 8-2A beam champion with a 9.4 and advanced to state on vault too.

Josie Harguth, gymnastics, advanced to state after placing second on beam in the Section 8-2A meet with a 9.375.

Meghan Wirtz, gymnastics, advanced to state after placing sixth on floor with a 9.275.

Alex Jones, boys hockey, finished with three goals against Sauk Rapids and four goals against Willmar.

Easton Dircks, wrestling, went 4-0 with two pins to win the 113-pound division at the Leopold Haglund Invite.

Gabe Wagner, wrestling, finished 3-0 with two pins to win the 152-pound division at the Leopold Haglund Invite.

Johnny Pecarich, boys basketball, finished with 29 points against Sauk Rapids.

Lily Schaeffer, girls Nordic skiing, won the Section 8 pursuit title with a time of 33:07.3 to lead the Warrior girls to state.

Eli Knapp, boys Nordic skiing, placed fourth in the Section 8 pursuit to lead the Warrior boys team to state.

Gavin Hoelzel, boys Alpine skiing, placed ninth to lead the Warrior boys to the state meet.

Myah Nelson, girls basketball, scored 21 points against Rocori.

Olivia Tautges, girls basketball, scored 20 points against Rocori.

Kayden Robinson, floor hockey, finished with five goals and three assists against Anoka-Hennepin.

Tre’Von Otey, floor hockey, finished with four goals against Maple Grove.

Cadence Atwater, floor hockey, finished with four goals against Maple Grove.

Breya Sawyer

Sawyer_Breya.JPG
Breya Sawyer

Sport: Hockey

Position: Goalie

Year: Junior

Age: 17

Height: 5-foot-4

Career highlight: The 26-save shutout of Moorhead in Game Two of the season

Other sports: Lacrosse, Soccer

Favorite class: Human Biology

Favorite food: Avocado toast

Favorite movie: “Cars”

Favorite website or app: Snapchat or Instagram

Favorite restaurant: El Tequila Mexican Restaurant

Future plans: To play college hockey, maybe lacrosse

Favorite athlete: Kirill Kaprizov

Parents: Robbie and Nikki Sawyer, Shena Matrious

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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