In nine previous seasons as a varsity program the Brainerd Warriors adapted floor hockey team has always qualified for the state tournament.
Only once (2003) have the Warriors lost their first two games and not placed. Otherwise, they have won two championships, finished second twice, third twice, fourth once and fifth once.
Expectations are for sixth-seeded Brainerd (8-5-0) to place when the state tournament begins 6 p.m. Friday with a quarterfinal matchup against No. 3 Anoka-Hennepin (8-4-0).
"We've never been intimidated by a first-round game," Warriors coach Bruce Thompson said. "And we know how important the first-round game is."
Adapted floor hockey
At Stillwater High School
Friday's quarterfinal game
Brainerd vs. Anoka-Hennepin, 6:30 p.m., Gym C
Consolation semifinals, 9 a.m., Gyms C and B
Semifinals, 10:30 a.m., Gyms A and C
Fifth place, noon, Gym B
Third place, 1:30 p.m., Gym C
Championship, 1:45 p.m., Gym A
In the regular season Anoka-Hennepin defeated Brainerd 7-2. Dustin Wright scored four goals for the Mustangs, who outshot the Warriors just 17-15 but jumped to a 4-1 first-period lead.
"If we give Anoka-Hennepin a chance to shoot we're in trouble," Thompson said. "They've got two nice shooters. That's what hurt us last time.
"We have to shut (Wright) him down and we've got to improve our shot productivity and limit theirs. They outshot us in every period."
Thompson hopes to saddle the Mustangs by making a few defensive changes. Brainerd will move wheelchair goalie Andy Herold to a defense position and make Joe Casselman the wheelchair goalie. Amanda Albertson would move from walker defense to wing, with Jacob Ray dropping back from wing to walker defense.
"I like what I'm seeing (of the changes)," Thompson said. "Andy is so active with his hands and stick that he might knock down more pucks and give us a better defensive package. We dabbled with it the other day. We'll practice a few more times with it.
"We might change our offense to create a better defense."
Brainerd has had plenty of offense. Sophomore Nathan Puchalla leads the team in scoring with 35 goals and 45 total points. Ray follows with 24 goals and 43 points. Ethan Rudbeck has contributed 8-31, Albertson 2-13 and Mary Sebasky 4-7.
Thompson is hoping for at least a repeat of last year's finish when Brainerd beat Maple Grove in the quarterfinals, stunned top-seeded South Suburban in the semifinals before losing to Dakota United in the final.
"You have to have the mindset of here's what we have to do, now go do it," he said. "They know what the task is at hand. We will not be intimidated. They have to know their jobs and their roles. That's what this week is for. We just have to match up the best we can."
Mike Bialka can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.