It ended the way it started -- with a tie.
The Brainerd Warriors girls' hockey team darted to a 3-0 lead Thursday against the River Lakes Stars. But the Stars kept their composure, chipped away at the deficit and earned a 3-3 overtime tie at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
Hilary Smith, Aani Rangen and Erin Holznagel scored in the game's first 8:11 but the Warriors were shut out the last 42:49 of regulation and in the 8-minute overtime.
"Our girls kept at it, " Warriors coach Jim Ernster said. "Sure, it's disappointing to come out with a tie, there's no doubt about that.
"I thought (goalie) Val (Benjamin) did a great job of making some key saves. She held us in there but I don't feel we were overwhelmed at any time. Val made the saves she needed to make to give us a chance to win. It's just disappointing we didn't help her out as much as she helped us out."
Benjamin finished with 18 saves as Brainerd was outshot 21-18.
River Lakes began its comeback with 41 seconds left in the opening period on Allie Stalboerger's tip-in.
More than two minutes into the second period the Stars struck again as Kenzie Novak scored just after River Lakes failed to capitalize
See HOCKEY / 11A
on a 4-on-3 power play for 18 seconds and on a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes.
The Stars' Abbie Rhoda tied it 3-3 at 11:49 of the third, snapping a shot that tumbled into the net off Benjamin's stick.
Neither team posed a serious scoring threat in overtime, during which Brainerd survived a Stars power play.
Smith opened the scoring just 23 seconds after the opening faceoff, assisted by Holznagel and Abby Rehberger.
Ernster said wing Macala Campbell didn't receive an assist on the play but deserved credit for setting up the goal.
"Macala protected the puck," Ernster said. "She came around the net, passed it to Erin, then got to the front of the net again to tip it and cause all sorts of disarray.
"They could have given it to either of two people, either Hilary or Abby, because they were both there whacking at it."
Rangen whacked in her sixth goal of the season at 2:32, assisted by Holznagel, who scored her 16th goal of the season off a draw at the 8:11 mark for the 3-0 lead.
"We were really moving our feet well in the first half of the first period," Ernster said. "That was nice to see. That's one of the things that's sort of challenged us through the years, how we start a game. This game and the Crookston game (a 2-1 loss Dec. 19) are two of our better first periods of the year.
"Then it becomes a mental thing. I'm not sure if it's the kids getting complacent or what it is. I told the girls I thought they were thinking a little bit too much about offense, and we started to get lazy, especially in the second period."
River Lakes 1 1 1 0 -- 3
Brainerd 3 0 0 0 -- 3
First period -- B-Hilary Smith (Erin Holznagel, Abby Rehberger) :23; B-Aani Rangen (Holznagel) 2:32; B-Holznagel (Rehberger) 8:11; RL-Allie Stalboerger (Amber Schultzenberge) ppg 16:19
Second period -- RL-Kenzie Novak (Angie Schramel) 14:57
Third period -- RL-Abbie Rhoda (Kayla Nepsund) 11:49
Overtime -- No scoring
Shots on goal -- RL 10-5-4-2-- 21; B 6-5-6-1 -- 18
Goalies -- RL-Trish Wendlandt (15 saves); B-Val Benjamin (18 saves)
Power-play opportunities -- RL 1-4, B 0-2
Conference -- RL 2-4-1, B 2-3-1. Overall -- RL 5-6-1, B 7-7-1. Next game -- Alexandria at Brainerd 5:15 p.m. Tuesday.
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