Buffalo's Ben Klein (22) misfires on a shot attempt on Brainerd goalie Collin Kleffman during the first period in last Saturday's 3-0 home loss to the Warriors. The loss came two days after Klein scored twice in leading the Bison to a 5-3 road win at Prin
By Rob LaPlante
The struggles this season against section opponents continued last Saturday for the Buffalo boys' hockey team.
A 3-0 home loss to Brainerd dropped the Bison's record to 1-6 against Section 8AA teams.
The Warriors, ranked No. 12 in Class AA, got an early goal from Matt Fischer just 6:22 into the contest.
Thanks to a stifling defensive effort, Fischer's goal was all the offense Brainerd would need. But speed and grit forced a young Bison team to create two pivotal turnovers leading to two insurance goals.
"We have some fast players," said Brainerd Head Coach Dave Aus. "We felt if we could jump on their defense, we could make them turn the puck over a bit."
Brainerd's second and third goals were just that. Wyatt Andres took advantage of a defensive-zone turnover and fired a wrist shot past Bison goalie Nathan Mueller for a 2-0 lead.
A neutral-zone turnover in period two led to another breakaway goal as Mason Kruse used his speed to beat the Bison defense and Mueller for a 3-0 lead.
The Bison trailed 3-0 after two periods, and trailed in shots 24-5.
"Brainerd is really, really good – one of the top teams in the state and section," said Bison Head Coach Aaron Johnson. "They didn't give us much, and we failed to execute a bit in the first two periods."
Jake Braccini nearly opened the scoring on the Bison's second shift of the first period, but his shot from the slot just went wide. After that, it took until period three before Buffalo could muster any chances.
Although no goals came in period three, Buffalo's intensity and physicality started to draw some Warrior penalties. Buffalo failed to capitalize on five power-play opportunities, but successfully killed off three Brainerd power plays, including two instances where the Bison were two-men short for over a minute.
Bison defenseman Joe Carothers says he enjoys playing the outstate teams.
"It's always fun playing those northern teams," Carothers said. "Games are always more physical."
One thing most the outstate teams in the section have that Buffalo doesn't is experience.
"Some of these top teams have given us problems all year, and Brainerd is a senior and junior-heavy team playing against a bunch of our sophomores and underclassmen," Johnson said. "I liked how we played in the third period. We came out and showed a little more skill and started to make some plays."
Klein nets two
Two days before Saturday's home loss, the Bison's offense awoke for five goals in a 5-3 road win last Thursday at Princeton.
Ben Klein scored the game's opening and closing goals for the Bison. Carothers broke a 3-3 tie, netting the eventual game-winning goal with 3:31 left in regulation on an assist to Ryan Nelson and Braccini.
"Ryan gave me a nice pass," Carothers said. "I had an open shot from the point, and just took it. Luckily it went it."
Buffalo led 2-0 after a period on goals by Klein and Cal James. Nelson's goal in period two was squeezed between two Princeton tallies. Matt Swanson's second goal of the game 7:17 of period three tied the score, before Carothers' goal and Klein's second coming into an empty net.
Buffalo outshot Princeton 36-25 for the game. River Goodmanson made his first start of the season in goal for the Bison and made 22 saves to earn the win.
"I felt it was a good time to maybe give Nathan a bit of a mental break," Johnson said. "River's been deserving of some playing time. He works his butt off in practice and we would be in rough shape without him. I thought we were kind of sloppy in front of him the first two periods, but I felt we had a really strong third."
Next up for the Buffalo (9-10 overall, 5-2 conference) is a 7 p.m. non-conference home game on Thursday, Feb. 1 against Chanhassen.
Buffalo 5, Princeton 3
(Thursday, Jan. 25 at Princeton)
Bison2 1 2 - 5
Tigers0 2 1 - 3
First period: B -- Ben Klein (unassisted) 9:52; B -- Cal James (unassisted) 10:24.
Second period: P -- Carter Flor (Markus Abrahamson) 8:08; B -- Ryan Nelson (Jordan Zelenak) 8:50; P -- Matt Swanson (unassisted) 14:49.
Third period: P -- Swanson 2 (Hunter Orrock) 7:17; B -- Joe Carothers (Nelson, Jake Braccini) 13:29; B -- Klein 2 (unassisted) 16:32, EN.
Goalies: B – River Goodmanson (win) 25 shots, 22 saves; P – Ryce Thiel (loss) 35 shots, 31 saves. Shots: B – 15-10-11 – 36; P – 8-6-11 – 25. Power Plays: B – 0-1; P – 0-2.
Brainerd 3, Buffalo 0
(Saturday, Jan. 27 at Buffalo)
Warriors2 1 0 - 3
Bison0 0 0 - 0
First period: BR --Matt Fischer (Mason Kruse) 6:44; BR -- Wyatt Andres (unassisted) 14:58.
Second period: BR -- Kruse (unassisted) 4:32.
Third period: No scoring.
Goalies: BR – Colin Kleffman (win) 8 shots, 8 saves; B – Nathan Mueller (loss) 35 shots, 32 saves. Shots: BR – 9-15-11 – 35; B – 2-3-3 – 8. Power Plays: BR – 0-3; B – 0-5.