A dominant second period lifted the No. 2 seeded Brainerd/Little Falls Warriors over the No. 7 seeded Moorhead Spuds 6-2 in the Section 8-2A Quarterfinals Saturday, Feb. 8, at Essentia Health Sports Center in Brainerd.
Early in the second, BLF controlled the puck and never gave Moorhead a chance in the offensive zone. Things seemed to turn in the Spuds favor when BLF forward Gabbie Smith got hit with a penalty at the 10:14 mark and then a Jenna Nieman penalty put the Spuds at a 5-on-3 advantage.
A handpass was called giving the Warriors a faceoff in Moorhead’s zone with one second remaining in 5-on-3.
Right from the faceoff, Gabbie Smith raced out of the penalty box and scored a top-shelf shorthanded goal to make it 3-1 Warriors.
“While I was sitting in the penalty, I knew there was one second left and the puck just popped right out to me and I just had to finish it,” Gabbie Smith said. “It’s kind of a lucky one but I will take it.
“We knew today was not going to be easy because sections are different. They came out strong, but we did the little things well and got pucks deep and shots on goal and it just ended up in our favor.”
Seconds later, Emma Smith scored a shorthanded goal to make it 4-1.
“It really motivated us,” Gabbie Smith said of the shorthanded goals. “Those got us really in the game and I thought they were huge. We have to play a full game moving forward though.”
BLF outshot Moorhead 18-1 in the second and had nine quality scoring chances to Moorhead’s zero.
“Good things happen when you get pucks to the net and that’s what we started to do,” Warriors head coach Jack Freeman said. “I thought we simplified a few things and our (penalty) kill came up big.”
It was the Spuds who struck first in the first period with a goal by their junior captain Ava Kistner at the 10:31 mark. Minutes before the goal, Gabbie Smith and Lindsay Booth missed on a two-on-one scoring chance.
“I thought we had some nerves early,” Freeman said. “It took us a little bit to channel it there, but eventually we got it going.”
BLF did not take long to get the goal back when Shaylee Stroot scored a power-play goal at the 12:35 mark and a little over 30 seconds into the power play.
Booth was able to break free of the defense and deke the defenseman for a goal with 1:20 remaining in the first to give BLF its first lead.
Moorhead held the shots advantage for most of the first period, until the last minutes when BLF created most of its chances. The Warriors outshot Moorhead 9-7 and converted on their only power-play opportunity.
With a 4-1 lead to start the third, the Warriors added to their lead when Emma Booth scored off assists from Sophie Robinson and Molly Hagelie -- both their second assists of the game.
Then, a flurry of penalties by BLF gave Moorhead multiple 5-on-3s. Olivia Dronen was able to capitalize on one of those for the Spuds to give Moorhead one last hope.
Two minutes laters, Josie Kramer became the sixth Warrior to score as BLF walked away with the win.
Robinson, Hagelie and Gabbie Smith all finished with two points for BLF. The Warriors outshot Moorhead 41-13.
BLF’s penalty kill forced Moorhead to go 1-for-6 on the power play, which included multiple 5-on-3s.
“Penalty kill has been a great strength of our team,” Freeman said. “We had to use it too much tonight. We have to be more disciplined then we were at times. But it’s always nice to rely on your kill to go out and kill a penalty every time you take one. The full unit was working.”
The Warriors get another home game for the section semifinals Tuesday, Feb. 10, and will play Alexandria. Top-seeded Roseau eliminated No. 8 Bemidji 8-1 and No. 5 Buffalo upset No. 4 Sartell/Sauk Rapids 2-1.
“I thought our three lines were good at times,” Freeman said. “We got to put together that full 51 minutes. Our kids were up for it today, in terms of they were excited for the game. We have to channel all of that excitement and some of those nerves and make sure we play our game.”
For more photos, go to https://bit.ly/39n4VTP.
Moorhead 1 0 1 -- 2
Brainerd/LF 2 2 2 -- 6
First period: M-Ava Kistner (Regan Anderson, Brianna Krejci) 10:31; Brd-Shaylee Shroot (Sophie Robinson) PP 12:35; Brd-Lindsey Booth (Molly Hagelie) 15:40
Second period: Brd-Gabbie Smith SH 12:21; Brd-Emma Smith SH 12:54
Third period: Brd-Emma Booth (Robinson, Hagelie) 3:36; M-Olivia Dronen (Kistner) PP 9:39; Brd-Josie Kramer (Gabbie Smith) 11:23
Shots on goal: BLF 9-18-14 41, M 7-1-5 13
Goalies: BLF-Breya Sawyer (12 saves); M-Haleigh Storbakken (35 saves)
Warriors 6, Moorhead 2
Key: Two BLF shorthanded goals in the second period left the Moorhead Spuds deflated
Overall: Brd 16-9-1, M 9-16-1
Next: No. 2 Warriors vs. No. 3 Alexandria in Section 8-2A Semifinals at Brainerd 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11.