One of the largest crowds in Brainerd Area Civic Center history may have seen one of the greatest games in Brainerd Warriors boys hockey history.
In a physical Section 8-2A semifinal, the second-seeded Warriors held off the No. 3 Roseau Rams 4-3 Saturday night before more than 1,500 fans.
Brainerd won it on Chris Pohlkamp’s goal at 10:37 of the third period. The junior defenseman took a pass from Alex Mimmack and beat Rams goalie Ryan Anderson with a wrister.
“I saw an opening so I jumped down,” Pohlkamp said. “(Mimmack) made a great pass. I just shot on net and it went in.”
The Warriors survived a frantic final 36 seconds when Roseau pulled Anderson in favor of a sixth attacker. But goalie Kyle Helmberger and his teammates withstood the fury for their sixth straight win.
“The best way I can put this, so our boys understand, is that Roseau had five kids that played Elite (League) hockey this year — five — so that tells you a lot about how good these boys are right now,” Warriors coach Jim Archibald said of his team.
Brainerd is headed to its second straight section final where it will get a rematch against Moorhead. The Spuds, who beat Brainerd 3-1 in last year’s section final at Bemidji State, eliminated No. 4 Bemidji 5-1 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
“We know what to expect (from Moorhead),” Pohlkamp said. “We’re going to come out with everything we’ve got and give it our all and hopefully come out with a win.”
Helmberger said a return trip to the finals against Moorhead is what Brainerd had hoped for.
“It’s a game we want,” he said. “It’s a rivalry. We’ll try to come out and do the same thing (as Saturday).”
The Warriors’ senior goalie was splendid between the pipes as Roseau constantly tested him. The Rams fired a whopping 43 shots, 11 more than the Warriors.
“It was just being aggressive,” Helmberger said of how Brainerd survived the onslaught. “We got some momentum, popped a couple goals in, the boys deserve it. I just did what I could.
“(The defense) cleared everyone out from in front of the net so I could see shots from the point, the forwards were blocking shots, it was good.”
So was Helmberger.
“Kyle played great,” Pohlkamp said. “He stuck in there. He won us the game.”
Pohlkamp and Jake Ellingson each scored twice and both collected assists as Brainerd won for the 16th time in its last 17 games and improved to 21-5-0. Logan Rivard notched three assists for the Warriors, who trailed 1-0, surged in front 3-1 and watched Roseau tie it 3-3.
Trailing 3-2, Roseau came out buzzing in the third, outshooting the Warriors 15-6 during the period. Helmberger made a fabulous stop on a coast-to-coast rush by Cole Bjugson in the first four minutes. He also stopped Jack Helgeson’s shot from close proximity before the Rams tied it 3-3 when Alex Halstensgard whacked in a rebound at 4:41 of the third.
In the second, Ellingson gave Brainerd a 2-1 edge at 6:34 as he rebounded Smith’s wicked shot that hit Anderson in the mask.
Ellingson’s nifty feed to Pohlkamp, who scored on another wrister, gave Brainerd a 3-1 edge at 11:59 of the second.
The Warriors were forced to kill a 5-on-3 power play as two penalties were called against them on the same shift. On a subsequent power play, Roseau’s Zach Yon tightened the deficit to 3-2 at 16:27 of the second with a power-play blast that nicked the crossbar and ricocheted in.
Roseau’s Tanner Okeson opened the scoring at 10:49 of the first with a wrister from the slot that beat Helmberger to the stick side. Ellingson tied it 1-1 at 15:50 of the first with a rebound.
Roseau 1 1 1 — 3
Brainerd 1 2 1 — 4
First period: R-Tanner Okeson (Alex Ziegler) 10:49; Brd-Jake Ellingson (Logan Rivard, Chris Pohlkamp) 15:50
Second period: Brd-Ellingson (Cole Smith, Rivard) ppg 6:34; Brd-Pohlkamp (Ellingson, Rivard) 11:59; R-Zach Yon (Okeson) ppg 16:26
Third period: R-Alex Halstensgard (Alex Strand, Cole Bjugson) 4:41; Brd-Pohlkamp (Alex Mimmack) 10:37
Shots on goal: Brd 14-12-6-32, R 10-18-15-43
Goalies: Brd-Kyle Helmberger (40 saves); R-Ryan Anderson (23 saves).
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.