Grand Rapids/Greenway vs. Brainerd/Little Falls

5 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20

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.

Seniors Gabbie Smith (11-10-21) and Lindsey Booth (9-2-11) give Brainerd/Little Falls a dynamic one-two scoring punch. Goaltender Breya Sawyer, a freshman, is allowing just 1.49 goals per game.

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.