No matter the line combinations the Brainerd Warriors continue to pile up points.
Warriors coach Jim Archibald shook up his lines for Thursday night’s 6-0 Central Lakes Conference win over the outmanned St. Cloud Apollo Eagles at Brainerd Area Civic Center with encouraging results.
Archibald split up the high-flying top line of Matt Pohlkamp, Aaron Rich and Mitch McLain, pairing Pohlkamp with Mitch Howieson and Cole Smith, Rich with Reno Fussy and Mason Severson and McLain with Griffin Campbell and Logan Rivard.
Pohlkamp responded with a hat trick and an assist, McLain scored once and collected three assists and Rich added two assists.
Campbell and Fussy contributed goals as Brainerd improved to 6-0 overall. Brainerd has outscored its six foes 45-7 with four shutouts.
“We were getting into that one-line team again,” Archibald said, “so we made a decision to put some of our seniors and our captains with some of the younger guys in hopes that what they were doing would rub off on them. Tonight, we had three solid lines and it was a great game to watch. Everybody played well, so I guess we can say our plan worked so far.”
What may have been most impressive was the play of Brainerd’s defense. The Warriors allowed only eight shots to reach goalie Kyle Helmberger, who wasn’t challenged. Brainerd gave up just one shot in each of the last two periods.
“We just played a lot better in the defensive zone today,” senior captain and defenseman Gaven Motschenbacher said. “We worked in practice on shutting the house down, which is kind of the main area from where people score from. In practice, we went over taking our guys, taking our time, and shutting them down.”
Archibald thought the defense was at its optimum.
“They kept things simple,” he said. “They had their heads up, their toes pointed up the ice, they moved the puck very well. They put the puck to the open holes. They were putting it tape to tape, and that just makes things so much simpler for everybody during the game.”
Motschenbacher also joined the scoring parade, collecting three assists.
“I try to get a little offensively involved,” he said. “Some games it works out better than others.”
In a 5-on-3 advantage, Pohlkamp put the finishing touches on his hat trick 1:58 into the final period, giving Brainerd a 6-goal lead as running time kicked into effect.
McLain set up two picturesque goals in the second, during which Brainerd outshot the Eagles 18-1 and didn’t surrender a shot until 86 seconds remained.
Twenty seconds into the second, McLain skated in on a 2-on-1 rush, and passed to Campbell, who shot and scored on his rebound for a 3-0 lead.
McLain later fed Fussy, who drilled a shot under the crossbar for a 4-goal edge.
Pohlkamp made it 5-0 late in the second, tapping the puck past Eagles’ goalie Reese Gregory, who played the first two periods.
In the first, Pohlkamp opened the scoring, accelerating through the Apollo defense, deking Gregory to the right and flicking a backhand top-shelf.
McLain put the Warriors up 2-0 with a power-play score from a sharp angle at 11:10 of the first, a period in which Brainerd outshot the Eagles 17-6.
St. Cloud Apollo 0 0 0 —0
Brainerd 2 3 1 — 6
First period: B-Matt Pohlkamp (Jed Rusk, Gaven Motschenbacher) 3:26; B-Mitch McLain (Aaron Rich, Matt Pohlkamp) ppg 11:10
Second period: B-Griffin Campbell (McLain, Rusk) :20; B-Reno Fussy (McLain, Motschenbacher) 8:01; B-Matt Pohlkamp (Logan Rivard, Motschenbacher) 14:22
Third period: B-Pohlkamp (Rich, McLain) 1:58
Shots on goal: Brd 17-18-11—46, SCA 6-1-1—8
Goalies: Brd-Kyle Helmberger (8 saves); SCA-Reese Gregory (30 saves in first 2 periods, Josh Wood (10 saves in last period)
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.