Rich to Mitch.
Mitch to Rich.
Goals 2 minutes and 37 seconds into the contest, by Mitch McLain and Aaron Rich, who assisted on each other’s goals, spurred the Brainerd Warriors to a 7-2 win over the Roseau Rams in a significant Section 8-2A game Saturday afternoon at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
It was the second time this season Brainerd has beaten the Rams, the first time that has happened in program history. Prior to this year Brainerd had beaten the Rams once.
“It’s huge,” McLain said of the Warriors’ ninth straight win. “I think it’s huge for Brainerd hockey as a whole. We’re kind of changing the mold you could say, going against what’s normal around here.
“It all started in 2010 when we beat them once. We believed we could, and this team believes we can. Every team after this should also believe that.”
The win heaps additional significance on Tuesday’s home game against Class 2A’s seventh-ranked Moorhead. The Spuds beat Brainerd 4-1 Jan. 10 despite being outshot 35-21 by the 19th-ranked Warriors. A win could give Brainerd a top two seed in the playoffs.
“Right now we’re looking pretty good in the Section 8 race,” Warriors coach Jim Archibald said. “Obviously, Tuesday’s game is huge. We’re very confident if we play the way we did tonight we should come out again on the right side of the scoreboard on Tuesday.”
McLain predicted Tuesday’s game will be “exciting.”
“We had a good game with them up there,” he said. “As a young team, a lot of energy’s going to be in the building (Tuesday). (Beating) Roseau here, I think, is going to be a big confidence boost for us. We’re going to come to the rink Monday and we’re not going to overlook Moorhead.”
The Warriors certainly didn’t overlook 20th-ranked Roseau but the contest was close for the first 25 minutes as the Rams battled back from a pair of 2-goal deficits.
In the end it was Brainerd’s superior offensive skill that made the difference as McLain registered a hat trick and assist, Cole Smith scored twice and collected an assist, Rich added a goal and three assists, Matt Pohlkamp contributed three assists and Jed Rusk scored the final Brainerd goal.
Saturday’s outburst gave McLain 34 goals and 28 assists for a team-high 62 points.
“It’s nice, when the bounces are going your way, but the team just played well, and everyone worked hard,” McLain said. “That’s when the bounces go your way, when everyone works hard.”
Shots on goal finished 30-30 but the Warriors scored four power-play goals and one short-handed.
“The guys just gave a great effort today, right from the start to the finish, and obviously the scoreboard showed that,” Archibald said. “We’re happy with the way they played, we’re proud of them, and as coaches we have the confidence they’re going to play like that and we’re going to be very successful down the road.”
Warriors goalie Jared Stearns finished with 28 saves, making key stops particularly when Brainerd was stymieing all but one of the Rams’ four power plays.
“Jared is playing very well for us,” Archibald said, “and he’s going to continue to do that down the road, which is going to do nothing but help us and benefit us. Right from the defense to the forwards the guys just played very well.”
The Warriors came out flying from the opening faceoff and dictated the pace throughout the game, tallying twice in the first 2:37, and finishing the period with a 10-2 edge in shots.
McLain opened the scoring, taking a perfect pass from Rich and banging it past Rams goalie Jared Strand. Forty-eight seconds later, Rich tipped in McLain’s shot from the point.
“It was kind of funny,” Archibald said. “One of the officials came up after the first period, looked at me and said, ‘You guys can’t keep that tempo up the whole period,” and I said, “You haven’t seen our guys practice and watch what we put them through,’ so I said, ‘Yes they can,’ and they proved they could. It was a great testament to the boys.”
Roseau 0 2 0 — 2
Brainerd 2 3 2 — 7
First period: Brd-Mitch McLain (Aaron Rich, Matt Pohlkamp) 1:49; Brd-Rich (McLain, Cole Smith) ppg 2:37
Second period: R-Trustin Gust 1:23; Brd-McLain (Gaven Motschenbacher, Rich) ppg 3:36; R-Alex Strand (Cole Bjugson, Tanner Okeson) ppg 8:09; Brd-McLain shg 9:03; Brd-Smith (Logan Rivard, Matt Pohlkamp) ppg 16:27
Third period: Brd-Smith (Motschenbacher, Matt Pohlkamp) 1:43; Brd-Jed Rusk (Rich) 14:16
Shots on goal: Brd 10-9-11-30, R 2-14-14-30
Goalies: Brd-Jared Stearns (28 saves); R-Jared Strand (14 saves in first 2 periods), Mike Tangen (9 saves in third period)
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.