For those with an appreciation for the state’s geography and its hockey history, Brainerd/Little Falls’ surprise run to last March’s Class 2A state championship game where it lost 4-3 to Edina was as beautifully refreshing as the central lakes area from which the Warriors hail.
Metro schools had met for the big-school title nine straight times before last March, a streak that started in 2009, a year after Grand Rapids/Greenway lost 5-3 to Eden Prairie in the 2008 championship game.
This season, Brainerd/Little Falls (8-3-0, 4-0-0) and Grand Rapids/Greenway (6-3-1, 2-0-0) are again among the state’s northern power brokers, which is why their Friday tilt is our Top Game of the Week. Both teams play a mix of metro and northern schools in the regular season in preparation for the playoffs.
The signature victory so far for the Warriors, ranked No. 10 in the Class 2A state coaches' poll from Dec. 12, was a 5-1 rout of No. 4-2A Blake on Nov. 16.
Grand Rapids/Greenway has no such victory over a top-five team, but the Lightning have won three straight, and four of five, a run that started on No. 29 with a 2-0 triumph over White Bear Lake.
Claire Vekich, a junior committed to Bemidji State, leads the Lightning in goals with 10 and assists with 13. Senior Emily Trast has been solid in goal, posting a .925 save percentage and 2.14 goals against average.
A non-metro school hasn’t won a Class 1A or 2A state title before or since Hibbing/Chisholm in 1997, the third year of the girls’ tourney.