The Grand Rapids Thunderhawks gave the Brainerd Warriors a heavy dose of speed and a 2-1 non-conference girls' hockey loss Saturday at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
The game featured physical and fast-paced play, numerous missed scoring opportunities and some quality hockey.
After a scoreless first period, Brainerd's Rachel Obeidzinski knocked in Brainerd's first goal. Off a pass from Macala Campbell, Obeidzinski skated from behind Grand Rapids' goalie Shaina Sakrison. The senior forward then shot it in front of Sakrison before it bounced off the right post and into the net.
It was Obeidzinski's sixth goal of the season and third of the week. Campbell picked up her second assist of the year.
"It kind of surprised her," Brainerd coach Chuck Whalen said of Obeidzinski's goal. "It gave us a lead that we used to compete well. I thought our girls had a heck of a game as a team.
"I don't know whether we've played as well together. It seemed like we had the chemistry going. There was a lot of passing and playmaking. We certainly had our chances to win that game."
The Thunderhawks' first goal came one minute after Brainerd was called for too many players on the ice early in the third. The player advantage helped as Michelle Newton scorched the puck at the Warrior net. Brainerd goalie Mandy Hanson stopped the initial shot but the puck trickled between her legs and Amy Lesitikow was there to scrape it past the line.
"It was a bouncing puck and there was a scramble in front of the net," said Whalen. "Our defense just didn't get on their sticks. They got to the puck before we did."
Both teams played equally, but Grand Rapids was noticeably faster and beat Brainerd to loose pucks.
"You go down their roster, man-for-man, and they just outskill us all the way down," said Whalen. "They're just a great team. This is a real accomplishment for our girls. To stay in a game like this with a very good team and to compete like this. We've had a great week."
Grand Rapids' sophomore forward Anna Larson one-timed the puck past Hanson to give the Thunderhawks the game-winner.
Bethany Murphy passed the puck in front of Hanson as Larson was standing wide open just in front of the crease and slammed it into the back of the net.
"They were pretty good," said Brainerd forward Samantha Welle. "But we could have played a lot better. We had some pretty slow feet. We picked it up at the end of the first period. Then we had it going in the second period, but we just lost it."
Despite the loss, Whalen was pleased with his team's effort. The Warriors finished a competitive week with a 1-1-1 record.
"It was a real good, tough game and that's how they play up on the Iron Range," said Whalen. "There was a lot of contact. These were the same refs that are doing the boys' game (later Saturday) and they let the girls play. It was a good game and they didn't want to get into the game and take it away from anybody."
Brainerd had its scoring opportunities. In the first, Welle skipped the puck over to Megan Whalen but Whalen's slap shot was swallowed in Sakrison's glove. With one minute remaining, Brainerd pulled Hanson for an extra skater, but Brainerd never secured a good shot at net.
"We just have to go out strong and keep skating to the puck," said Welle. "We need to get it to the net as much as possible."
Grand Rapids 0 0 2 -- 2
Brainerd 0 1 0 -- 1
First period -- No scoring
Second period -- B-Rachel Obeidzinski (Macala Campbell)
Third period -- GR-Amy Lesitikow (Michelle Newton) ppg; GR-Anna Larson (Bethany Murphy)
Shots on goal -- B 6 4 11 -- 21; GR 9 5 6 -- 20
Goalies -- B Mandy Hanson (18 saves); GR Shaina Sakrison (20 saves)
Power-play opportunities -- B 0-3, GR 1-3
Conference -- B 6-4-1. Overall -- B 10-6-2. Next game -- Brainerd at Alexandria 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
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