The starting time of Tuesday's boys' hockey game between the Brainerd Warriors and Sartell Sabres was moved up one hour.
The Warriors probably wish they could have played hours earlier in an empty Brainerd Area Civic Center. Instead, stunned Warrior fans watched in disbelief as Brainerd lost to Sartell for the first time ever, 5-1.
The Sabres scored three times in a 5 1/2-minute span of the opening period, built a 4-0 lead and rode the goaltending of Christopher Legett to victory, which snapped a three-game Brainerd win streak.
"We have to realize, after 19 games, if we don't play our hardest, if we don't come to the rink and completely battle every shift, then we might get beat," Warriors coach Ty Eigner said. "So, knowing that, you think you would come to the rink, regardless of the opponent, and know you've got to work really hard."
Although they outshot Sartell 30-13, the Warriors didn't play with a sense of urgency. They gave up one power-play, short-handed and empty net goal.
"Special teams played a role," Sabres coach Jereme Fimrite said. "When you get an opportunity you've got to seize the moment, and we did that early.
"Brainerd had opportunities all game. Sometimes it just doesn't go your way. You take your good fortune and you run with it, but you don't rely on it. You just keep playing and you battle."
The Warriors didn't appear ready for battle. They were beaten to loose pucks, let the Sabres sneak loose for four breakaways, two of which were stoned by Brainerd goalie Nick Whichello, and didn't penetrate Legett until Chris Peluso scored on a wraparound 1:54 into the third.
"I asked one of the kids (in the locker room) what he thought and he said nobody was really ready to play," Eigner said. "As coaches, we're responsible for that. I'll tell you what. It's never going to happen again."
Milestones have been happening frequently for Sartell this winter. The victory was another in a year of firsts for a school that is in only its eighth year of hockey, and its fourth in the Central Lakes Conference. The Sabres have beaten St. Cloud Apollo, Little Falls and Brainerd for the first time this season.
Fimrite attributed the win to young players stepping up and to stellar goaltending by Legett.
"We play team defense," Fimrite said. "We spend a lot of time in our end. We try not to give up the big play, scoring opportunities high in the slot. We try to keep the puck on the perimeter. Brainerd did a nice job holding the zone."
Sartell's David Hines opened the scoring at 6:15 of the first period. On a power play he took the draw and flicked in a backhander from the circle.
About 1 1/2 minutes later, the Sabres' Brian Bruss broke away for a short-handed score.
Three minutes after that, Hines scored again, skating around the Warriors' defense and beating Whichello with a wrist shot into the lower left corner.
Sartell built a 4-0 lead with 49 seconds left in the second period when Teddy Zierden stole the puck deep in the Warriors' zone and fired a bouncing puck past Whichello.
The Sabres' Jon Stoebe completed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 32 seconds left.
Sartell 3 1 1 -- 5
Brainerd 0 0 1 -- 1
First period -- S-David Hines, 6:15 ppg; S-Brian Bruss, 8:29 shg; S-Hines (Michael Sauer, Bruss) 11:30
Second period -- S-Teddy Zierden, 14:11
Third period -- B-Chris Peluso, 1:54; S-Jon Stoebe, 14:28 eng
Shots on goal -- S 7 3 3 -- 13; B 12 12 6 -- 30
Goalies -- S-Christopher Legett (29 saves); B-Nick Whichello (8 saves)
Power-play opportunities -- S 0-2; B 0-5
Conference -- S 5-8-0, B 7-3-0. Overall -- S 9-10-0, B 9-9-1. Next game -- Brainerd vs. River Lakes at Richmond 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
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