When Karley Sylvester decided to transfer from Little Falls to Warroad as a freshman, the Warriors’ girls’ team got a heck of a hockey player. She helped lead the Warriors to the state title game this winter as a sophomore, tallying a hat trick in the semifinals against Red Wing. In all, her 39 goals and 29 assists left her 11th in the entire state in scoring.
But the consolation prize for the Warroad boys wasn’t too bad either.
After a year with the family split in two locations, the Sylvesters decided to reunite on the shores of Lake of the Woods. And older brother Chris Sylvester has made quite an impact in his only year on the Warrior boys’ varsity.
Sylvester was Warroad’s fourth-leading scorer entering this year’s tournament with an 18-19-37 line. His play has given the Warriors a very good second line behind their potent top trio, necessary for a run deep into the state playoffs. In the Warriors’ 5-3 victory over St. Cloud Cathedral in the Class A state semifinals Friday afternoon, Sylvester tallied the team’s third goal midway through the third period.
Shortly after the game, Sylvester was asked about the Warriors finally getting to the state finals after losing in the semis the past two years. He shrugged and admitted he hadn’t been around for that heartbreak but instead suffered his own in Little Falls, where the Flyers were beaten in the quarterfinals both seasons.
Now he faced the possibility of meeting his old teammates in the finals.
“Oh, God, it’d be awkward,” laughed Sylvester. “I couldn’t even imagine playing against my former teammates. But good luck to them.”
Fortunately, or unfortunately as it may be, the previously unbeaten Flyers fell 6-1 to Breck in the late semifinal Friday. Sylvester’s allegiances won’t be tested Saturday afternoon – he’s a Warrior through and through now.
Breck stymies Little Falls
In the second semifinal, Breck managed to do something few teams have done this year: shut down the state’s all-time leading scorer, Ben Hanowski, and his high-powered Little Falls Flyers. Hanowski tallied a single assist on the Flyers’ lone goal in a 6-1 Mustangs’ victory.
“We have a defensive system and every body has a job to do. The message was, ‘Hey, let’s be responsible,’” said Breck coach Les Larson. “We weren’t going to walk a home run hitter or anything. We were just going to play our system and play it well.”
The Mustangs set up their defense as they had all year, playing a man-to-man zone in the defensive zone. They didn’t shadow Hanowski, but kept him in check through their very effective system.
Breck shut out eight opponents during the regular season and then held Rochester Lourdes scoreless in the quarterfinals Wednesday. Behind goalies John Russell (1.61 GAA, .934 save %) and Max McCormick (0.50 GAA, .946 save %) and a very stout defense anchored by senior Reid Herd, the Mustangs have only allowed 42 goals in 30 games.
“They didn’t give us any time or space with the puck at all,” said Little Falls coach Tony Couture. “They must have seen something in our decision making in some of the games. They attacked us hard and gave us lots of problems.”
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