LITTLE FALLS -- Riding a difficult stretch of games and a two-game losing streak into Tuesday's matchup with the Little Falls Flyers, the Brainerd Warriors boys' hockey team needed a win.
They got exactly what they needed.
The Warriors used a flawless first period, a tough penalty kill and a few timely whistles to down Little Falls 4-2 at Exchange Arena.
Brainerd shot out of the gate in the first when Jason Roberts beat Flyer goalie Aaron Jorgensen top shelf off a pass from Tyler Peterson.
Shortly after Roberts' goal, Little Falls thought it tied the score, but a quick whistle by the referee negated the goal.
Brainerd's Mark Germain gave the Warriors a two-goal lead when he put back a rebound off a Josh Hanske slap shot. Brainerd outshot the Flyers 9-3 in the period as well as holding off the Flyers on a 5-on-3 power play.
"We got out early and played our best period of hockey in the first period," Warriors coach Ty Eigner said, "but we went down after that and we can't let down like that."
Little Falls cut the Warriors' lead to one midway through the second on a power play as Steven Festler pounded a rebound past Brainerd goalie Nick Whichello.
But Hanske answered less than two minutes later as his high slap shot from the point beat Jorgensen. The Warriors also weathered another 5-on-3 power play, highlighted by stellar play from Whichello.
With 2:47 left in the second, another apparent Flyers' goal was again waved off after another quick whistle.
"I won't say anything bad about the refs, that's not my style," Flyers coach Tony Couture said. "We had some quality chances but we had a lot of missed opportunities too. We couldn't quite get the puck in the net on the 5-on-3s and that cost us."
Again, Little Falls cut Brainerd's lead to one in the third when Bryan Pender slipped the puck between Whichello and the post for a power-play goal.
Brainerd answered once again. This time it was Morgan Shepherd beating Jorgensen on the backhand to give the Warriors the winning margin.
Even though the Flyers outshot Brainerd 24-12 in the final two periods, Eigner was happy to see his team answer the Flyers' goals. He knows, however, his team needs a more consistent effort.
"Josh Hanske's goal in the second was a big one because Little Falls got some momentum and was right back in it," said Eigner. "We were fortunate. We'd like to answer back with good shift after good shift and play hard."
Eigner was pleased with his team's penalty kill. Brainerd had a lot of practice at it thanks to eight trips to the box.
"We played hard in the penalty kill," Eigner said. "I don't remember the last time I've been in a game where we've had two 5-on-3s against us. It just doesn't happen. But for the most part we did a good job of killing those penalties.
"I can live with a guy really going hard and finishing his forecheck. But the penalties we took, none of them were good ones."
After dropping their last two games, the Warriors knew how much a win against Little Falls would mean with the playoffs coming up.
"Ideally, everyone wants to play their best hockey at the end of the year," said Eigner. "You don't want to go into your first playoff game with a couple of losses. Winning makes everybody feel better."
Brainerd 2 1 1 -- 4
Little Falls 0 1 1 -- 2
First period -- B-Jason Roberts (Tyler Peterson) 2:24; B-Mark Germain (Josh Hanske, Tony Parrish) ppg. 6:51.
Second period -- LF-Steven Festler (Ben Jorgensen) ppg. 7:30; B-Hanske (Germain) 9:22.
Third period -- LF-Bryan Pender (Matt Peterschick, Mikael Lickteig) ppg. 4:38; B-Morgan Shepherd (Kiel Browne, Gregg Day) 7:17.
Shots on goal -- B 9-8-4 -- 21, LF 3-14-10 -- 27.
Goalies -- B-Nick Whichello (25 saves), LF-Aaron Jorgensen (17 saves).
Power-play opportunities -- B 1-4, LF 2-8.
Conference -- B 9-5, LF 3-11. Overall -- B 12-11-1, LF 9-15. Next game -- Brainerd at Sauk Rapids 7:30 p.m. Thursday; Little Falls at Alexandria 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.