The Brainerd Warriors girls' hockey team's best defense was its offense Monday in the opening game of the Brainerd Holiday Classic at the Brainerd Area Civic Center.
The Warriors took up permanent residency in the Fairmont Cardinals' zone as Brainerd cruised to a 7-1 win, earning a spot in today's championship game against Shakopee, which beat Lake of the Woods 3-2.
Brainerd outshot the Cardinals 19-3 in the first period (26-9 for the game). Aani Rangen and Emily Dunphy each tallied goals.
Even with the decided edge in shots, Warriors coach Jim Ernster wasn't pleased with his squad's play in the first.
"It was like 15 individual girls skating up and shooting the puck," said Ernster. "We just didn't see a lot of other good things happen. We didn't have the movement in front of the net and we weren't moving the puck as well as we should."
Ernster's message for the second period was simple: Attack the net.
Warriors 7, Fairmont 1
The key: BHS outshot the Cardinals 26-9.
Next: vs. Shakopee, 3 p.m. today at Brainerd Area Civic Center
While Brainerd had only six shots on goal in the second, the Warriors broke the game open with five goals. Two came from Erin Holznagel and two from Alyssa Lewandowski. Abby Rehberger scored the other Brainerd goal in the period.
"What we've been emphasizing is let's get traffic in front of the net," said Ernster. "In the second period we didn't have as many shots on net but we got more goals. It was good to see that the girls were standing in front of the net battling and wreaking havoc."
Brainerd is also starting to become a more balanced scoring team, evidenced by the fact five different Warriors scored goals. Ernster pointed out that scoring balance is one area his team needs to excel in.
"The biggest way this team will be most effective," Ernster said, "is if we have three, four, five girls scoring goals as opposed to having one or two score goals. Goal scoring is hard. It's a gift that a player needs to develop and it all comes from composure around the net."
While the Warriors' first line has scored the majority of the team's goals, the second line is coming on fast.
Jenna Roberts collected two assists and Macala Campbell had one. But Rangen, the second-line center who had an assist along with her goal, is fast becoming a scoring threat that opponents will have to watch.
"From her eighth grade year to her ninth grade year Aani's made a drastic improvement," said Ernster. "Now from her freshmen year to her sophomore year she's made another improvement. Not only have her skills progressed but her mind has progressed, which is as important as any of the physical, off the ice things that she's done."
Fairmont 1 0 0 -- 1
Brainerd 2 5 0 -- 7
First period -- B-Aani Rangen (Jenna Roberts, Macala Campbell) 2:41; B-Emily Dunphy (Rangen) 5:05; F-Ashley Olson 11:24.
Second period -- B-Abby Rehberger (Erin Holznagel) ppg 4:43; B-Holznagel (Roberts) 7:51; B-Alyssa Lewandowski 9:42; B-Holznagel (Jessica Jones) 11:04, B-Lewandowski (Rehberger) 13:26.
Third period -- No scoring
Shots on goal -- B 19-6-1 -- 26; F 3-2-4 -- 9
Goalies -- B-Valerie Benjamin (8 saves), F-Hannah Johnson (19 saves)
Power-play opportunities -- B 1-1, F 0-1.
Overall -- B 5-6-0. Next game -- Championship, Brainerd vs. Shakopee, 3 p.m. today at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
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