With the Section 8 girls' hockey playoffs approaching, Tuesday's game between the Fergus Falls Otters and Brainerd Warriors was the last contest that counts in the seeding process.
Afterward, Fergus Falls coach Wayne Horgen and Warriors coach Chuck Whalen debated the importance of the Otters' 1-0 non-conference win at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
"It was a big win for us for seeding," Horgen said. "It was super for us. We had so many injuries tonight that it was a nice victory. Not one of our lines was intact tonight."
Whalen projects the Otters as one of the section's top three teams so he didn't think a close loss would adversely harm the Warriors' seed position.
"I don't think it was a big game in terms of section play other than I had Fergus (seeded) ahead of us," Whalen said. "They beat Bemidji once and they just beat Moorhead in overtime 3-2.
"It would have hurt us if they would have come in here and blown us out like 6-1 or 7-1. This might have moved us a spot backward but I see a host of teams in front of us."
Following a scoreless first period, Trina Brennan put the Otters in front by the final margin. Her wrist shot from about 15 feet beat the Warriors' Sarah Johnson, who otherwise played a flawless contest by making 20 saves.
"Trina has been a center the last few years," Horgen said. "This year we moved her to defense. We did that primarily because she carries the puck so well. We needed an offensive defenseman. She took the puck at the blue line, moved in and got off a nice shot that went between the legs."
Whalen thought the Warriors played one of their best defensive games of the season.
"I thought Hilary MacIver played as fine a game as she has ever played in her career," Whalen said. "She was quick on the puck, made some great decisions and rushed the puck. She did just about everything.
"Sarah has been really struggling lately. I hope this was a coming out for her. She played solid in the first period when they took it to us and outshot us 12-6. She was outstanding there. She played great all the way through."
The Warriors had several scoring opportunities throughout the game. Among those that were notable were a first-period breakaway by Natalie Dunphy that just missed. Erin Holznagel and Katie Diiro had near-misses in the second and Dunphy had another prime chance in the third.
"We certainly had our chances," Whalen said, "but we missed the net and their goaltender made some good saves. It could easily have been 1-0 Brainerd instead of the way it turned out."
The contest ended with two close-range Warrior shots at Fergus Falls goalie Anna Pearmann who was sprawled in the crease as the buzzer sounded.
"I thought Anna came up with about four big saves," Horgen said. "It was a great game for her. She has had so many close games where she has lost her shutout or we lost 2-1."
Fergus Falls 0 1 0 --1
Brainerd 0 0 0 --0
First period -- No scoring
Second period -- FF-Trina Brennan, 9:35
Third period -- No scoring
Shots on goal -- FF 12-4-5--21, B 6-3-4--13
Goalies -- FF, Anna Pearmann (13 saves), B, Sarah Johnson (20 saves)
Power-play opportunities -- B 0-2, FF 0-1
Overall -- B 13-6-0. Next game -- Brainerd hosts Grand Rapids 5 p.m. Saturday.
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