It was only fitting a defender scored the game-winner Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Essentia Health Sports Center in Brainerd.
With the Section 8-2A Semifinal knotted 1-1 entering the third period, Emma Booth skated behind the net and found an open Sophie Robinson. The senior defenseman called for the puck and then buried it into the back of the net to lead the No. 2 Brainerd/Little Falls Warriors to a 3-1 victory over No. 3 Alexandria.
“I saw her come around and I called for it as loud as I could,” Robinson said. “She got it right on my tape and I just one-timed it. It was just over the far side where she wasn’t.
“We just had to play our game and we knew we might get more opportunities if we just stick with it. We knew one of them would have to go in.”
Senior Lindsey Booth added an insurance goal with 18 seconds remaining to send the Warriors to their fourth straight section final. They’ll face top-seeded Roseau 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, in Bemidji. Roseau beat No. 5 Buffalo 7-3.
Robinson was announced the Central Lakes Conference Performer of the Week late Monday night. She showed why Tuesday.
“It was a great pass and what a finish by Sophie Robinson,” Warrior head coach Jack Freeman said. “She played a great game for us. She does so many little things that don’t show up on a scoresheet so it was great to see her get rewarded with a big goal, game-winner, like that. She’s been huge for us all year.”
Shaylee Stroot was also credited with an assist on the Robinson goal. It was the second assist for both Booth and Stroot who assisted on the game’s first goal.
With eight seconds remaining on the game’s first power play, Molly Hagelle recovered a rebound in front of the Alexandria net and smoked her shot past Alex goalie Jordan O’Kane for a 1-0 Warrior lead.
BLF controlled the zone for most of the opening period to post an 8-4 shot advantage. Breya Sawyer was savvy in net for BLF by stopping two breakaway attempts and deflecting a laser with less than a minute in the first frame.
“We knew we had to be patient because they were going to try and make pretty plays,” Robinson said. “We didn’t want to make it easy on them by attacking too early. When they did get past us, Breya really helped us out and played amazing.”
Brainerd dressed seven defensemen and all seven played big Freeman said.
“They’ve been a strength of our team all year long,” Freeman added. “When you have kids like Sophie Robinson and Taylor Larson back there as your rocks, that’s a great formula. But also it’s the depth of that D-core. Emma Smith played a great game, I thought. Lucy Peterson, from Jenna Nieman to Reagan Aus to Riah Stroot -- it’s a group effort back there and they sure have been a strength to our team.”
Sawyer suffered an unfortunate bounce that resulted in Alexandria’s goal at the 15:05 mark of the second period that tied the score 1-1. Sawyer blocked the first shot, but the rebound ricocheted straight up and landed behind and to the side of Sawyer. The freshman goalie then backed into the puck as it crossed the line. Alexandria’s Marki Oberg was the last Cardinal to touch the puck resulting in her earning the goal.
“We’ve been having a tough time on our D-zone faceoffs there for a bit,” Freeman said. “That No. 10 (Oberg) she was really good on the dot. We were having a tough time beating her on draws. Eventually, they got pucks to the net and it was a mad scramble there and to their credit, they were able to bang one home.”
Sawyer finished with 15 saves, including five in the third period. Robinson said the third period was tense, but she had faith in her team.
“We were confident in our abilities,” Robinson said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we wanted to play and get another opportunity to practice tomorrow and play another game.
“We’ve been here before and we know what it takes. It’s never easy. We played a great game tonight.”
The Warriors have won eight straight against Alexandria, including this year’s lone regular-season meeting Jan. 2. BLF bested the Cardinals 6-2.
It’s the fifth straight section win for the defending section champions.
“There was obviously nerves, but there is faith in the group, too,” Freeman said. “You’re going to lean on the experience that this group has had playing in big games. It’s a group that’s played in a lot of big games over the years and I think that experience showed in the third period.”
For more photos of teh match up between Brainerd/ Little Falls Warriors and Alexandria go to https://bit.ly/2SkditO.
Alexandria 0 1 0 -- 1
Brainerd/LF 1 0 2 -- 3
First period: BLF-Molly Hagelle (Emma Booth, Shaylee Stroot) ppg 6:46
Second period: Alex-Marki Oberg (Hanley Block, Riley Nyberg) 15:05
Third period: BLF-Sophie Robinson (Emma Booth, Stroot) 5:33; Lindsey Booth 18
Shots on goal: BLF 8 9 7 -- 24, Alex 4 7 5 -- 16
Goalies: BLF-Breya Sawyer (15 saves); Alex-Jordan O’Kane (21 saves)
Warriors 3, Alexandria 1
Key: Emma Booth set up Sophie Robinson for the game-winning goal
Overall: BLF 17-9-1, Alex 17-7-3
Next: Brainerd/Little Falls vs. Roseau in Section 8-2A Championship at Bemidji 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.