Grand Rapids/Greenway and Brainerd/Little Falls have emerged as outstate competitors that are consistently ranked among the top Class 2A programs in a field that's mostly filled with metro schools. On Friday, the Lightning will host the Warriors in our Top Game of the Week.
For Grand Rapids/Greenway, ranked No. 10 in the Dec. 27 Class 2A coaches' poll, scheduling competitive games for a program located three hours outside the Twin Cities has not been an issue. The Lightning (13-3, 2-0) went into the holiday break with only one loss — a 4-1 decision to the state's top-ranked Class 2A team, Edina, on Dec. 8. But then they dropped two of three at the Edina holiday tournament, losing 5-2 to No. 2-1A Breck and 2-0 to North Wright County on Dec. 26 and 28, respectively.
Grand Rapids/Greenway plays in one of the toughest sections in the state, Class 2A, Section 7, which includes teams like No. 4-2A Forest Lake and No. 5-2A Andover. So facing a ranked Brainerd/Little Falls team will be a potential resume-booster for the upcoming playoffs.
Part of the Lightning's success this season has been their ability to score. They boast three players with 20 or more points in 16 games this season, with Claire Vekich's 20 goals pacing the program.
For Brainerd/Little Falls, a win could jumpstart a run in defending its Class 2A, Section 8 title from last season. The No. 9-2A Warriors clinched the title with a victory over Roseau in three overtimes last season.
The Warriors (12-2-1, 5-0) will be riding some momentum into Friday's matchup thanks to three wins in Edina's holiday tournament. The run included wins against No. 7-2A Maple Grove (2-0, Dec. 27) and No. 2-1A Breck (4-2, Dec. 28).
The Warriors' offense will need to continue to be a factor if they are able to make a return trip to state this season. Brainerd/Little Falls has averaged more than four goals per game this season, bolstered by Abby Pohlkamp and Lindsey Booth who have each tallied 25 or more points this season.