Too many shots. Too much pressure. Too much Erin Holznagel.
Those were factors in the Brainerd Warrior girls' hockey team's 6-2 victory over the Willmar Cardinals in Central Lakes Conference play Tuesday at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak in which the Warriors were outscored 13-3.
"We had to be honest with ourselves," Warriors coach Jim Ernster said. "We had lost two in a row, and the tendency is that a team becomes more individual oriented. We needed to fight that out and rely on what we do in practice.
"We couldn't rely on an individual person or line to get us going. We needed all of our lines going on both ends of the ice."
Brainerd peppered the Cardinals with 38 shots and used a four-goal third period to turn a tight game into a rout.
The Warriors' offense kept constant pressure on Willmar goalie Jeri Gesch. Holznagel was the main benefactor as the senior forward registered her second hat trick in three games. Brainerd's top line of Holznagel, Hilary Smith and Abby Rehberger accounted for five goals with Smith scoring two.
Brainerds Erin Holznagel (16), who scored three goals, controlled the puck in the Warriors 6-2 victory over Willmar Tuesday.
"That line with Hilary, Abby and Erin has a tremendous amount of talent," Ernster said. "But sometimes it seems like they're on different pages. In the third, they finally put some things together that we haven't seen out of them lately."
With just more than two minutes left in the second period, and the game tied at 1-1, the Holznagel show started.
The future University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog crossed the blue line into Willmar's zone and weaved past three defenders. She buried a perfectly placed shot over Gesch's right shoulder for her first goal.
In the third, with the score again tied, 2-2, Holznagel flew on goal to punch in a Smith rebound. Holznagel completed the trifecta when Rehberger, who collected four assists, found her streaking up the ice and put another well-placed wrist shot past Gesch.
"That should come very natural for Holzy," Ernster said of the hat trick. "She's very skilled and very gifted. But what we need her to do is, not only score goals, but to get assists as well.
"To be quite honest, Erin could get a hat trick every night. But she realizes that if she's out there getting a hat trick and no one else is doing anything then that's not going to be successful either."
Holznagel, who switched from defense to forward four games ago, finished with two assists, giving her a team-high 17 points.
"The coaches have helped me a lot in seeing the open ice," Holznagel said. "I have to also give a lot of credit to my teammates. It wouldn't have been there without them. Playing forward is a different challenge but it's nice to change things up."
Goalie Valerie Benjamin stopped 22 shots, including a number of Willmar breakaways.
"By far and away this was Val's best game of the year," said Ernster. "The thing about Val is that she'll make some phenomenal saves and then give up a weak goal. Mentally, she was in it for 51 minutes. She had some really pressure-packed saves."
Willmar 0 1 1 -- 2
Brainerd 1 1 4 -- 6
First period -- B-Hilary Smith (Erin Holznagel, Abby Rehberger) 8:37
Second period -- W-Mandi Samuelson 7:54; B-Holznagel 14:43
Third period -- W-Kali Gravgaard (Samuelson) ppg 1:51; B-Holznagel (Smith, Rehberger) 5:46; B-Holznagel (Rehberger) 8:33; B-Smith (Holznagel, Rehberger) 14:19; B-Jenna Roberts (Aani Rangen) 14:59
Shots on goal -- B 10-16-12 -- 38, W 8-7-9 -- 24.
Goalies -- B-Valorie Benjamin (22 saves), W-Jeri Gesch (32 saves)
Power-play opportunities -- B 0-3, W 1-3.
Conference -- B 2-3, W 1-4. Overall -- B 3-5, W 3-6-1. Next game -- B at Crookston 7:30 p.m. Friday.
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