In the first 32 years of the Central Lakes Conference, the Brainerd Warriors won six championships.
Brainerd is now the dominant team in the CLC, making it four titles in four years Thursday night with a convincing 7-1 victory over the Sartell Sabres at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
The Warriors, who finished CLC play 11-2-0, end the regular season at home Tuesday against Bemidji.
“It’s good for the boys,” Warriors coach Jim Archibald said of the title. “We’re happy for them, we’re happy with the way they’ve competed lately. Tonight, we came out with a little more jump and a little more sense of urgency. We’re definitely going to need that down the stretch.”
Senior defenseman Jake Donnay said “certainly it means a lot” to win the conference.
“We weren’t really expected to go very far this year with our shortage of seniors,” Donnay added, “so this feels great. We pulled it off real nice, I think.”
Donnay was one of seven seniors playing their final regular-season home game. Others were Jeff Bymark, Reno Fussy, Jed Rusk, Kyle Helmberger, Dylan Bartholomaus and Chris Busacker.
“It was a little emotional,” Donnay said. “It was nice seeing all the guys out there. Jeff Bymark had the biggest hit of the year — that’s always fun to watch, a (Sartell) guy did a handstand on our bench.”
With a win Tuesday, Brainerd hopes to earn a top two seed and get two home games in the Section 8-2A tournament, which begins Feb. 16 with a play-in game.
“After the last five years, and seeing how the voting goes, I’m just going to keep quiet. I’m not going to make any predictions and hopefully this year it will go in our favor,” Archibald said.
Donnay said a section title is the ultimate goal.
“Our main goal and objective is to beat Roseau and Moorhead and get into the state tournament, be the first ones in Brainerd history,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep working hard and hopefully it will pay off for us.”
Logan Rivard supplied two goals for the Warriors, Cole Smith scored a goal and collected three assists and Chris Pohlkamp added a goal and two assists as Brainerd won its third straight game.
Brainerd’s defense was suffocating, limiting the Sabres to 13 shots while letting loose 42 against two goalies.
Warriors goalie Kyle Helmberger shut out Sartell until the 11:54 mark of the third when Aaron Randall’s shot trickled behind him.
Rivard scored 2:07 into the third on a backhander to shift the game into running time. Randall’s goal stopped running time, but Smith’s score at 15:58 brought it back into effect.
A 3-goal second period put Brainerd firmly in control. Rivard started the barrage with a wrister off of a perfect pass from Smith. Pohlkamp made it 4-0 on a power play at 11:31. Adam Fischer’s slap shot off of a Sartell turnover made it a 5-goal Warriors lead.
The game got off to an ominous start for Brainerd as it was penalized twice in the first 69 seconds but it managed to kill both. During the power plays, Sartell’s Isaac Linstrom missed a wide open side of the net and Colin Johnson deflected a drive off the post.
In addition, at 4:28 of the first, one of the officials was cut by a stick under an eye and had to be helped off the ice, delaying the game for about five minutes until an official came over from the junior varsity game.
Finally, at the 11:50 mark of the first, Nate DeChaine broke the scoreless tie as he rebounded Alex Mimmack’s blast from the point.
Not quite two minutes later, Smith flicked a tape-to-tape pass from the back wall to Jake Ellingson, who was streaking down the slot and slammed it home for a 2-0 Brainerd lead.
■ ‘Shoot for the Cure’
Brainerd student Mikayla Chandler spearheaded “Shoot for the Cure,” an event to raise funds to fight breast cancer. To mark the occasion, the Warriors wore pink laces in their skates, and pink tape on their socks and sticks. Pink T-shirts were sold in the arena.
“She put a lot of time and a lot of work into it,” Archibald said of Chandler. “For us, we’re just trying to give a little bit back, anything we can do to help out. We just did what we could here, and hopefully they will raise some money for a great cause.”
Sartell 0 0 1 — 1
Brainerd 2 3 2 — 7
First period: Brd-Nate DeChaine (Alex Mimmack, Mason Severson) 11:50; Brd-Jake Ellingson (Cole Smith) 13:45
Second period: Brd-Logan Rivard (Smith, Ellingson) 2:16; Brd-Chris Pohlkamp (Jed Rusk, Mimmack) ppg 11:31; Brd-Adam Fischer 13:57
Third period: Brd-Rivard (Pohlkamp, Smith) 2:07; S-Aaron Randall (Kyle Erickson) 11:54; Brd-Smith (Pohlkamp, Rusk) 15:58
Shots on goal: Brd 13-14-15-42, S 4-6-3-13
Goalies: Brd-Kyle Helmberger (12 saves); S-Elliott Brookins (22 saves first 2 periods), Carter Kasianov (13 saves in third period).
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.