The quarterfinal round of the adapted floor hockey state tournament hasn't been kind to the Brainerd Warriors the last two years.
Two years ago Brainerd was ousted by Anoka-Hennepin in the opening round. Last year the South Suburban Flyers bumped the Warriors from title contention.
This weekend the Warriors, the second-seeded team from the North Division, will be looking to exact first-round revenge as they take on South Suburban, the No. 3 seed in the South, at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the state tournament at Bloomington Jefferson.
But there's a kicker. The Warriors (9-2) and Flyers (8-4) did not play each other this season. Floor hockey teams were split into two divisions, North and South, and teams only played inter-division regular-season games, making state tournament match-ups more interesting.
Brainerd assistant coach Ron Allord talked to Warriors adapted floor hockey players at practice this week. The Warriors open state tournament play Friday at Bloomington Jefferson High School. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"We didn't play any teams from the South, that's the significance of North and South divisions," Warriors coach Bruce Thompson said. "There are five really good teams. Dakota United, Rochester, Brainerd, Robbinsdale and Anoka-Hennepin. We can't take any of them lightly."
Teams certainly won't take the Warriors lightly, who are mainstays at state. Brainerd enters the game averaging 6.5 goals a game and is led by Nathan Puchalla's 36 goals and 44 total points.
"We have a lot of confidence that we can beat South Suburban," Puchalla said. "I think we'll do great but we also can't get down. We have to just take it one game at a time and not look ahead of ourselves. That would be a mistake."
While Puchalla is the main offensive weapon, linemates Amanda Albertson and Ethan Rudbeck do their fair share of scoring. Albertson is second on the team with 11 goals and 24 points while Rudbeck has 11 goals and 22 points.
Adapted floor hockey state tournament
When: Friday through Saturday.
Where: Bloomington Jefferson High School
Quarterfinals: Anoka-Hennepin (10-1) vs. Maple Grove (5-7), 5 p.m.
Rochester Area (9-2) vs. Robbinsdale (10-2), 5 p.m.
Brainerd (9-2) vs. South Suburban (8-4),
Dakota United (11-0) vs. Mounds View (6-6),
Brainerd goalie Joe Casselman and defenseman Andy Herold have teamed up to be a formidable duo in goal. Warrior opponents have scored just 28 goals, a 2.5 goals per game average, and have been shut out six times.
"We've just got to be consistent," Thompson said. "We've had a good season and we have to carry that on to the state tournament. As long as we're consistent in our play and don't have too many mental breakdowns, we'll be fine."
While South Suburban's offense is potent, its defense appears to have holes. The Flyers have scored 92 goals in 12 games, a 7.7 average. Defensively, South Suburban has surrendered 43 goals, a 3.6 goals-against average.
"If you're not ready to play you're going to get knocked out right away," said Thompson. "We have to play teams we haven't played before and that concerns me. We don't know much about South Suburban, but on the flip side they don't know a lot about us."
TROY GUNDERSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
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