At 5 feet and 105 pounds, Abby Rehberger is one of the smallest players on the ice for the Brainerd Warriors girls' hockey team.
The eighth-grade right wing had the biggest game of her varsity career Friday as she recorded a hat trick in Brainerd's 6-2 Central Lakes Conference victory over the River Lakes Stars at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
Rehberger and her linemates, left wing Samantha Welle and center Megan Whalen, accounted for nine of the Warriors' 16 points. Welle had two goals and two assists and Whalen notched two assists.
"It made me really happy that my linemates helped out getting it to me," Rehberger said of her hat trick.
"I really like being on their line because they get the puck down the ice," Rehberger added. "They get a lot of shots, and give me opportunities to get in there for rebounds. They get in there for rebounds, too."
Brainerd scored five of its six goals on rebounds as it improved to 8-4-1 overall.
Rehberger boosted her season totals to five goals and seven assists following Friday's outburst.
"Abby's got some pretty good hands," Warriors coach Chuck Whalen said. "That's why she's up with us as an eighth-grader, and of course she was a prolific scorer on the 12-and-under team.
"She had to make a gigantic leap to varsity hockey because she's very small. Even with her great feet, skating ability and puckhandling, I think she was a little intimidated by the whole thing, a little timid.
"After she finally got her first goal, she has played with a different kind of confidence lately.
"Of course, Welle, with her Rehberger's first opportunity presented itself at the 7:24 mark of the opening period. Megan Whalen fired a wrist shot from the circle and Rehberger rammed in the rebound.
At 10:39 of the second period, on a power play, Welle assisted on Rehberger's second goal.
Rehberger completed her hat trick at 9:13 of the final period. Megan Whalen unleashed a shot and Rehberger tapped it in.
Three unanswered goals in the third period enabled the Warriors to pull away. The Stars pulled to within 3-2 at 4:35 of the last period when Warriors goalie Sarah Johnson tried to make a kick save of a Laurie Barten shot but the puck rolled into the net.
Hilary Smith and Welle, in addition to Rehberger, tallied in the final period, enabling Brainerd to secure its fifth conference victory in seven tries.
The Warriors outshot River Lakes 27-14 and went 2-for-3 on the power play while the Stars went 0-for-2.
"We have not been a very good 5-on-5 team as of late," Chuck Whalen said. "I think the last five goals we scored in that (Blaine) tournament were all power-play goals. Thank goodness we can score on the power play to break the game open or we're in trouble.
"That's exactly what happened to us at Detroit Lakes (a 3-3 overtime tie Thursday). We had outshot them 21-7 after two periods and it's a 1-1 game.
"It's kind of the same old story since we started the program. We don't score a lot of goals. We have a lot of territorial advantage. We move pucks up to the net, but we don't have a sniper that can bury things for us."
River Lakes 0 1 1 -- 2
Brainerd 1 2 3 -- 6
First period -- B-Abby Rehberger (Megan Whalen, Samantha Welle) 7:24
Second period -- RL-Jenny Habben (Marena Lewis, Anne Bohlman) 9:21; B-Rehberger (Welle) ppg 10:39; B-Welle (Erin Holznagel, Samantha Gunning) ppg 14:45
Third period -- RL-Laurie Barten (Bohlman) 4:35; B-Hilary Smith (Holznagel, Alyssa Lewandowski) 5:37; B-Welle (Emily Dunphy, Gunning) 8:34; B-Rehberger (Whalen) 9:13
Shots on goal -- RL 4-7-3--14; B 9-5-13--27
Goalies -- RL-Trisha Wendlandt, first 38:34, Crystal Songetay, last 6:26, (21 saves combined); B-Sarah Johnson (12 saves)
Power-play opportunities -- RL 0-2, B 2-3
Conference -- RL 1-6-0, B 5-2-0. Overall -- RL 2-10-0, B 8-4-1. Next game -- Brainerd at St. Cloud Icebreakers 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
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