Two of the cornerstones of the Brainerd Warriors adapted floor hockey program went out with grace and dignity in the final home game of their careers Tuesday.
Seniors Nick Praska and Adam Carner combined for 13 points, helping the Warriors to an 11-3 win over the Robbinsdale Robins at Riverside Elementary School.
"They've been with the program a number of years," Brainerd coach Bruce Thompson said. "Nick has to be one of the better players in the state. We did not see David Baldwin at White Bear Lake. Nick is as good as anyone I have seen. He shows leadership and a kind heart with our kids.
"Adam shows leadership. He's not as big a scorer as Nick. They have been with the program forever. They have been the stalwarts of Brainerd floor hockey."
Praska had five goals and four assists. He had a hat trick in the first period and added one goal in each of the last two periods.
"It's been great," Praska said of his four years on the team. "I love this team. The defense, the offense, the goalies, they're all great. I love them all."
Carner collected two goals and two assists as the Warriors won their eighth straight game, raising their record to 8-1.
"I'm the last pioneer," Carner said. "I was the youngest player on (the first) team (in 1994-95). All these guys have come along ever since."
The Warriors have come a ways since a season-opening 5-3 loss to St. Paul Humboldt. Tight defense, stout goaltending by Dustin Scherfenberg and an explosive offense has enabled Brainerd to outscore the opposition 66-22 in the last eight games.
Brainerd scored in bunches Tuesday while outshooting the Robins 53-23. After Robbinsdale scored 1:45 into the game Praska scored twice in the next 3 1/2 minutes. The Robins scored again before David Peterson, Carner and Praska tallied to give Brainerd a 5-2 lead.
Robbinsdale scored just seven seconds into the second period. Then the Warriors rattled off the game's last six goals. Praska scored along with Chris Nelson twice for an 8-3 Brainerd lead. Thiel, Carner and Praska scored in the last period for the final margin.
"We have improved every game, being sharp on the puck and on the floor, getting our passes in and getting our shots off," Thompson said. "Nick is the leader on the floor for us. He's got a shot.
"We had to play against a walker defenseman. They put two (wheel)chairs in front of the net and put a guy out front. Sometimes you come in on a walker defenseman, get a shot off and, 'Bam,' it's there. That's how Nick scored a few."
Scherfenberg made 20 saves as the Warriors tuned up for their regular-season finale March 2 against Dakota United at Apple Valley.
"From what we've heard Robbinsdale lost to those guys," Carner said. "That was Robbinsdale's only loss except for us. Dakota United is a deep team. They have 27 players and they play them all. They might wear us out."
Said Praska, "They were 7-1, we were 7-1. This game was basically for the top seed in the state tournament, and we won, which is cool."
Robbinsdale 2 1 0 --3
Brainerd 5 3 3 --11
First period -- R-Tony Dockter (Mike Boss) 1:45; B-Nick Praska, 2:05; B-Praska (Adam Thiel) 5:23; R-James Wilkie (Dockter) 7:35; B-David Peterson (Praska, Thiel) 9:20; B-Adam Carner (Thiel, Praska) 13:20; B-Praska (Chris Nelson) 14:15
Second period -- R-Dockter (Lee Homan) :07; B-Praska (Nelson, Carner) 5:23; B-Nelson (Courtney Gunderson) 5:56; B-Nelson (Praska) 7:10
Third period -- B-Thiel (Praska) 2:05; B-Carner (Nelson) 10:50; B-Praska (Carner) 14:23
Shots on goal -- R 10-4-9--23; B 14-25-14--53
Goalies -- R-Christine Welch (42 saves); B-Dustin Scherfenberg (20 saves)
Overall -- R 7-2, B 8-1. Next game -- Brainerd vs. Dakota United at Apple Valley 5:45 p.m.
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