Between the second and third periods of Tuesday's Brainerd Warriors and Fergus Falls Otters boys' hockey game, fans got to participate in a little game called "Chuck The Puck," lobbing pucks at a bucket sitting at center ice.
A little less than 14 minutes later, many of those same fans were tempted to toss their cookies as the Otters scored with just 99 seconds remaining in the contest to break open a 3-3 tie, gut-punch the Warriors and stun the partisan crowd watching at rinkside.
Two Fergus Falls empty net goals after that and the Otters skated out of Brainerd with a 6-3 win.
The Warriors can't say they didn't have opportunities to win the contest. Brainerd let the game's only power-play opportunity go by the boards without producing a serious scoring opportunity.
When the Warriors took a 2-1 lead just 25 seconds into the second period, they kept that advantage for less than a minute.
Finally, Brainerd controlled the pace and the puck for much of the game's third period, but then, in the game's waning seconds, coughed up the puck and gave the Otters the opportunity they needed to steal a win on the road. Brainerd coach Ty Eigner was not enthused about his team's less-than pumped performance.
"It was like we were spinning our wheels all night," said Eigner. "We'd take two steps forward and one step back. I think we had very little emotion; it didn't seem to me like we had much jump. And that's surprising.
"It's frustrating the amount of emotion our kids played with tonight. You'd like to see them play with a little more emotion."
The teams traded opening-period goals that resulted in a 1-1 tie at the first intermission. Fergus Falls' Ryan Kantrud scored the first of his two goals to open the scoring at 3:38. Brainerd tied it on a goal by Warrior defenseman Jim Bender, assisted by David Quisberg and J.P. Platisha.
Ben House scored for a 2-1 Warrior edge at 25 seconds of the second period. The Otters answered just 41 seconds later off the stick of Ryan Miller, to once again knot the score.
At 4:26 of the second, the Otters' Dan Perry went off for tripping and Brainerd had the game's only power play. But Fergus Falls turned the Warriors away and scored a goal just seconds after returning to full strength. Miller's second goal staked the Otters to a 3-2 advantage.
" When we were on our power play," said Eigner, "we didn't set it up once and it just wasn't up to what our players are capable of doing. That's frustrating, too."
The 3-2 Fergus advantage lasted until Matt Burris scored for Brainerd at 7:32 of the third period to tie the contest. Burris' goal fired up the fans and for a while, it looked as it the Warriors would finally do something with the home-ice advantage.
The optimism was short-lived as the Warriors turned the puck over in their own end and the Otters capitalized on a score by Tim Graff at 13:21 that gave Fergus Falls the lead.
There was neither time enough on the clock, nor emotion left on the Brained bench, for the Warriors to counter. Empty net goals by the Otters' Kantrud and Justin Stock capped the scoring.
"When you get tied 3-3 in your own building in a game where you don't play very well, you consider yourself pretty fortunate," said Eigner. "But then we turned the puck over and didn't play in our own end.
Fergus Falls 1 2 3 6
Brainerd 1 1 1 3
First period -- 1- FF, Ryan Kantrud (Ryan Miller) 3:38; 2- Brd, Jim Bender (David Quisberg, J.P. Platisha) 6:24.
Second period --3- Brd, Ben House (Brian Reese, J.P. Platisha) 0:25; 4- FF, Miller 1:06; 5- FF, Miller (Mike Gaustad) 6:44.
Third period -- 6- Brd, Matt Burris (Tony Parrish) 7:32; 7-FF, Tim Graff (Gaustad, Justin Stock) 13:21; 8-FF, Ryan Kantrud (Stock, Miller) 13:54; 9- FF, Stock (Kantrud, D.J. Ecker) 14:22.
Shots on goal -- Brd-28; FF 29.
Goalies -- Brd Grant VanWyngeeren 23 saves; FF Tyler Ness 25 saves.
Power-play opportunities -- Brd 0-1; FF 0-0.
Conference -- B 3-3. Overall -- B 6-10. Next game -- Brainerd at Willmar 7:;30 p.m. Friday.
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