After being outscored 34-6 in their first four games, the Brainerd/Little Falls Flying Warriors played their most competitive game of the season Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, their effort didn’t result in a win as the River Lakes Stars snapped a 2-2 tie with two straight goals in a 4-2 Central Lakes Conference win at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
The loss dropped the Flying Warriors to 0-5-0 overall, but first-year head coach Stephanie Sustercich isn’t about to throw in the towel.
“I am concerned, but I’m not panicking about it,” Sustercich said of being winless. “I know these kids are going to be able to do it. We have a lot of potential. It’s just putting those pieces of the puzzle together.
“One of the captains, Zoe Wolhart, just said we’re going to work hard (Wednesday). That’s what the goal is. We’re going back, not to the drawing board, but back to work hard and practice and get ready for Thursday’s game.”
With the score tied 2-2 late in the second, the Stars’ Rachael Prozinski tallied on a rebound and Natasha Meed took a behind-the-net pass from Carley Roda and rapped it past Flying Warriors goalie Jodi Bertrand.
Prozinski gave River Lakes an insurance score through traffic at 9:21 of the third, during which the Stars withstood the final 93 seconds without surrendering a goal as B/LF pulled Bertrand in favor of a sixth attacker.
Bertrand finished with 20 saves and the Flying Warriors lost despite outshooting the Stars 27-24.
“Jodi’s been challenged by coach (Brad) Hubred,” Sustercich said. “He has high expectations for her and she needs to continue to perform game after game after game because we’ve got two other hungry backup goalies that want that spot.
“She has to work really hard, to make sure she keeps that spot, and she did tonight. She performed very well. Coach Hubred and I were very happy with her.”
Trailing 1-0 after the first, B/LF received consecutive goals from Emily Stark and Wolhart to forge ahead.
Stark capitalized on a Stars’ turnover in the slot. Wolhart put the Flying Warriors ahead as she scored with River Lakes two skaters short.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Prozinski and Meed scored within a 5-minute span for a 3-2 lead at the second intermission.
The Stars outshot B/LF 12-6 in a first period that was scoreless until the 15:49 mark. At that point, River Lakes’ Jessica Kooiman skated in on Bertrand, flicked a shot that Bertrand stopped but Kooiman cashed in the rebound.
Although the Flying Warriors were outshot in the first they had more quality chances. Maren Brown nearly scored on the game’s first shift. Shortly after she stole the puck and rifled a shot that Stars’ goalie Dominique Jungels saved. Emily Stark almost scored on a shot from the slot.
River Lakes 1 2 1 — 4
Brainerd/Little Falls 0 2 0 — 2
First period: RL-Jessica Kooiman 15:49
Second period: BLF-Emily Stark :27; BLF-Zoe Wolhart ppg 3:03; RL-Rachael Prozinski (Shay Cogelow-Ruter) 8:19; RL-Natasha Meed (Corley Roda) 13:45
Third period: RL-Prozinski (Cogelow-Ruter) ppg 9:21
Shots on goal: RL 12-8-4—24, BLF 6-13-8—27
Goalies: RL-Dominique Jungels (25 saves), BLF-Jodi Bertrand (20 saves)
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.