Ben House may have been the inspiration for the win by the Brainerd Warriors boys' hockey team Friday.
House, who broke two bones in his right leg in Thursday's victory against Sartell, watched Friday's 7-3 Central Lakes Conference win over the Little Falls Flyers from a wheelchair at Brainerd Area Civic Center. He acknowledged his teammates while being wheeled in and his presence across the ice appeared to inspire the Warriors.
"We wanted to come out today and play for him," said Warriors right wing Brian Reese, who had two goals and two assists. "Everyone felt bad that this had to happen to him at this point. Everyone knew how bad he wanted to be out there. We went to see him today (in the hospital).
"It was really good to see him sitting over there. I think it pumped the guys up a lot. We're going to miss him a lot."
Players like Reese and J.P. Platisha helped Brainerd win its second straight game and put the Warriors in position to end the season against Willmar Saturday night with a three-game win streak.
Platisha recorded his second consecutive hat trick and added an assist as the Warriors improved to 6-5 in the conference and 9-14-0 overall. In the last three games Platisha has seven goals and six assists.
"I think J.P. is playing the way he is capable of playing," Warriors coach Ty Eigner said. "I think if you would ask him if he had however many goals (Friday) and (Thursday) that he could just as easily have had two or three more each night. He's that kind of player. He gets opportunities. I hope he gets himself in a groove now where he's going to capitalize when he gets a chance.
"In order for us to advance and keep this season going everyone will have to be opportunistic when they get chances."
The Warriors had plenty of chances against Little Falls goalie Ian Bakke, who faced 38 shots. But they didn't begin to control play until the final period.
Brainerd built a 3-1 lead on goals by Jeff Hight, Jim Bender and Platisha (short-handed), only to have Little Falls scrap back and tie it. Eric Rakow tallied on a power play, Chris Dobis scored when the Flyers were two men short and Isaac Smieja scored on another power play.
"When we go into the Central Lakes we can usually hang in there for a couple periods," Little Falls coach Tony Couture said. "It just comes down to teams in the Central Lakes just execute the little things a whole lot better than we do. I think that was pretty evident tonight. It came down to little things like line changes. They scored a couple goals off line changes. We were getting caught. We didn't get the puck in deep.
"The kids were fired up. It was tied 3-3 the last time we played them and they beat us 6-3. We knew it was going to be a grind. We needed to play a perfect game to win and we didn't."
In the final period during which Brainerd outshot the Flyers 16-0, the Warriors were nearly perfect. Platisha scored in the first 16 seconds on a power play and again about 2 1/2 minutes later. Reese ended the scoring with 48 seconds left.
As they did against Sartell, Grant VanWyngeeren and Tyler John split the goaltending chores for Brainerd. VanWyngeeren made seven stops in the first 23:02 and John had to make only four saves.
Little Falls 1 2 0 -- 3
Brainerd 3 1 3 -- 7
First period -- B-Jeff Hight, 4:15; B-Jim Bender (Brian Reese, Drew Boland) 5:25; LF-Eric Rakow (Paul Herman) ppg 12:58; B-J.P. Platisha, shg 13:54
Second period -- LF-Chris Dobis (Isaac Smieja) shg 6:42; LF-Isaac Smieja (Dobis, Rakow) ppg 10:26; B-Reese (Ryan Bender, Platisha) 13:10
Third period -- B-Platisha (Reese) ppg :16; B-Platisha (Jason Roberts) 2:33; B-Reese (Hight) 14:12
Shots on goal -- LF 4-10-0--14; B 13-9-16--38
Goalies -- LF-Ian Bakke (31 saves); B-Grant VanWyngeeren (7 saves in first 23:02, Tyler John 4 saves in last 21:58)
Power-play opportunities -- LF 2-5, B 1-4
Conference -- B 6-5, LF 2-10. Overall -- B 9-14, LF 8-14. Next game -- Willmar at Brainerd 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Brainerd at Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Section 7AA quarterfinals.
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