The Brainerd Warriors girls' hockey team thrives on pressure.
And in a 2-1 win over the Willmar Cardinals on Friday at the Brainerd Area Civic Center, it's pressure the Warriors got.
Much to the dismay of Brainerd coach Chuck Whalen, the Warriors let Willmar cut into their two-goal lead and gave them six minutes of power plays late in the game.
"We had a couple of poorly-timed penalties and we were lucky to pull this off," said Whalen, whose team is now 13-5 overall. "We told our (penalty kill) to attack the puck and not be soft. We were able to get on them and disrupt them."
Hilary MacIver, Natalie Dunphy, Megan Lorenz, Megan Whalen, Samantha Gunning and Brook Plested all made contributions in penalty killing situations. The Warriors allowed six Willmar shots while in third-period penalty kill and cleared the puck out of their own zone four times. Brainerd goalie Mandy Hanson did not give up a power-play goal.
"We've always been strong on penalty kill," said MacIver, a senior defenseman who was on the ice during all three penalty kills in the closing minutes. "We like the intensity of the pressure. We know we can't make a mistake and we get out and play up to our abilities."
But playing up to their abilities isn't exactly what's been happening the last few games, Chuck Whalen said.
"We've been in a little bit of a funk lately as a team," he said. "I told them it is a sign of a good team when you play poorly and still win. But they're still disappointed in the way they played."
MacIver said she couldn't put her finger on why the team is struggling.
"I don't know what's been going on lately," said the Warriors' captain, whose team went on a nine-game winning streak earlier in the season. "We were on a winning streak and then we played some tougher teams. Now we don't have the intensity we had at the beginning of the season.
"We never give up, but sometimes we're in another world."
Dunphy scored the first Brainerd goal, unassisted, at the 11:32 mark of the first period. She broke into the Willmar defense with teammate Sandy Haag on her right and blew the puck past goalie Elyse Dowdell.
Eighth-grader Erin Holznagel scored the second Warriors goal only 53 seconds into the third period. After a faceoff at the Willmar blue line, the puck flew towards the Cardinals' net. Holznagel broke loose from the pack, picked up the puck and flipped a backhand shot past Dowdell.
Both MacIver and Chuck Whalen said Hanson had another superior game in goal. She stopped 21 shots, giving up her only goal with 12 minutes to play in the game.
Willmar 0 0 1 -- 1
Brainerd 1 0 1 -- 2
First period -- 1, B-Natalie Dunphy 11:32.
Third period -- 2, B-Erin Holznagel (Amy Oakes) :53; 3, W-Sharla Villnow 2:56.
Shots on goal -- W 6-5-11 -- 22; B 11-4-6 -- 21.
Goalies -- W-Elyse Dowdell (19 saves); B-Mandy Hanson (21 saves).
Power-play opportunities -- W 0-3; B 0-2.
Conference -- B 4-4. Overall -- B 13-5. Next game -- Brainerd hosts Fergus Falls, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
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