After earning the No. 2 seed in the Section 8-2A playoffs, the Brainerd Warriors weren’t about to suffer a letdown against the No. 7 Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake Moose.
Brainerd unloaded an avalanche of shots at Moose goalie Darien Jones, who blocked 41 of the 45 as the Warriors secured a 4-1 victory in the quarterfinals Tuesday night at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
“We had a lot of shots on net but as I told the boys, shots don’t win games, goals do,” Warriors coach Jim Archibald said. “We’ve got to get a little bit more greasy around the net and pay the price a little bit more because we had lots of opportunities where we were kind of reaching instead of moving our feet and going through people.
“Obviously, (the Moose) played well. We had some opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, but this is step No. 1 in our quest. The boys can enjoy this tonight but (Wednesday) we have to start focusing on what we have to do Saturday.”
The win advances Brainerd to Saturday’s semifinals where it will host the winner between No. 6 Buffalo and No. 3 Roseau. That game was postponed Tuesday until 5 p.m. Wednesday at Roseau.
“Depending on who wins that game, it might change our preparation a little bit,” Archibald said. “But I think we have all the tools. It’s just mentally we have to be ready to go.”
The Warriors split with Roseau during the regular season, winning 3-0 in Brainerd Jan. 18 and losing 2-0 at Roseau eight days later. Brainerd beat Buffalo 7-5 in Brainerd Feb. 5.
Junior center Logan Rivard doesn’t consider it a disadvantage that the Warriors won’t know who they will play until about 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“Obviously, we’re going to prepare, have a good week of practice, and just come out ready,” he said.
Rivard, who scored two goals and collected an assist, said the Warriors were ready for the Moose despite the discrepancy in seeding.
“It was pretty easy to get up for it,” he said. “It’s a playoff game, obviously, so anything can happen. We didn’t play our best, but we got the win, and we’re focusing on Saturday now.”
Brainerd’s first line of Rivard, Cole Smith on left wing and Jake Ellingson on the right provided seven of the Warriors’ 10 points. Smith collected a goal and assist and Ellingson dished out two first-period assists.
“We’ve developed some chemistry,” Rivard said of his line. “They’re great players. They make my job pretty easy out there.”
The only goal Brainerd surrendered was at 4:38 of the third on a Birk Olson rebound. Two or three of the Moose’s other shots challenged Warriors goalie Kyle Helmberger, but his defensive corps kept M/A/ML out of the Brainerd zone or at the perimeter.
In the first, Brainerd began to dictate the pace and it resulted in two goals and a 20-3 advantage in shots.
Smith opened the scoring at 10:35, converting a nice feed from Rivard into a low drive.
About 3.5 minutes later, Rivard banged in the rebound of a Thomas Stoxen shot from the point and it was 2-0 Warriors at 14:00.
It could have been more lopsided in the first as Jones made several difficult saves. They included a Griffin Campbell side-to-side pass to Reno Fussy on the doorstep, Smith’s rebound of an Ellingson shot and Alex Mimmack’s shot off a set-up from Mason Severson.
Brainerd, which has won five straight games, outshot the Moose 14-2 in the second and increased its lead to 4-0 on goals from Rivard and Fussy.
Smith snapped a crisp pass to Rivard, who was cruising down the slot and scored with a wrister.
Fussy made it 4-0 with 15 seconds left in the second, tipping in a Mason Severson shot from the point. Jones stopped a 1-on-1 against Ellingson and a break-in by Severson, otherwise it would have been worse than 4-0 after two.
Monticello/A/ML 0 0 1 — 1
Brainerd 2 2 0 — 4
First period: Brd-Cole Smith (Logan Rivard, Jake Ellingson) 10:35; Brd-Rivard (Thomas Stoxen, Ellingson) 14:00
Second period: Brd-Rivard (Smith) 10:42; Brd-Reno Fussy (Mason Severson) 16:45
Third period: MAML-Birk Olson (Robbie Stromme, Sam Johnson) 4:38
Shots on goal: Brd 20-14-11-45, MAML 3-2-6-11
Goalies: Brd-Kyle Helmberger (10 saves); MAML-Darien Jones (41 saves).
Section 8-2 Quarterfinals
No. 2 Brainerd 4, No. 7 Monticello/A/ML 1
No. 1 Moorhead 8, No. 8 River Lakes 2
No. 4 Bemidji 6, No. 5 St. Cloud Tech 2
No. 6 Buffalo at No. 3 Roseau 5 p.m.
Buffalo/Roseau winner at Brainerd 7 p.m.
Bemidji at Moorhead 7 p.m.
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.