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Nyberg helps lead Alexandria to 5-2 win over Section 8AA foe Brainerd-Little Falls

With two goals on the night, Nyberg ends her goal drought and helps Alexandria give Brainerd-Little Falls its first Section 8AA loss of the season.

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Senior defender Riley Nyberg surveys the Brainerd-Little Falls defense in a game on Jan. 11, 2022. Nyber finished with a team-high and her season-high, two goals in a 5-2 win for the Cardinals. Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

With only three goals on the season and with Brained-Little Falls on a power play, Alexandria senior defender Riley Nyberg broke through the defense, wound up and fired at the goal.

The shot whizzed past Flying Warriors’ senior goalie Breya Sawyer for an unassisted, short-handed goal with six minutes left in the second period to put Alexandria up 2-1 against their section rivals.

“I just wound up, looked up, searched for a spot and just slid it in there,” Nyberg said.

Nyberg’s late second period goal ignited the Cardinals offensive explosion that erupted in the third period. Alexandria scored three goals in the final period, including another by Nyberg, giving the Cardinals a 5-2 win Tuesday over Brainerd-Little Falls.

“We came out flying in that third period,” head coach Molly Arola said. “It was really cool to see us rattle some goals in…[I’m] really proud of the way we came up in that third period, got some big goals right away and gave us a bit of a cushion.”

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The Cardinals scorched the back of the net with their three goals in the first five and a half minutes of third period. Alexandria’s run of five straight goals in the game was capped off with a goal from Nyberg at the 5:29 mark of the final frame.

“She had a really good game,” Arola said about Nyberg’s performance. “She was just putting the puck on and showed confidence in her shot.”

Tuesday’s contest is the first time Nyberg, a co-captain for the team, found the back of the net since a Dec. 18 game against Holy Family Catholic. It’s a fun opportunity any time a defender can have a two-goal night.

“A lot of my goals just kind of slipped in, which I was really excited about,” she said.

Brainerd-Little Falls (11-6, 7-1 Section 8AA) dropped its first Section 8AA game of the season after winning its first seven.

Alexandria (6-7-1, 3-2-1 Section 8AA) pushed the puck into the Brainerd-Little Falls zone on multiple occasions in the first period, having an 8-3 advantage in shots on goal late in the first.

The Cardinals could not break through until the second period with a goal from freshman forward Cadence Ellingson on a power play. That goal tied the game at 1 and helped light the fuse for the Cardinals’ offense.

Alexandria junior forward Lauren Maras chipped in with a goal 21 seconds into the third period.

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Maras has had an assist or goal in the last five out of six games.

“She’s a great player and anytime we can get her on the board is great,” Arola said. “We’ve had a lot of people getting points, so hopefully we can have everybody continue to contribute.”

Senior defender MaKenna Aure added one goal and a team-high two assists on the night. Freshman forward Kennedy Ellingson, sophomore forward Sophie Korynton, junior forward Ella Westlund, senior defender Elise Patience, and senior forwards Hanley Block and Peyton Boesl all contributed an assist Tuesday.

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Alexandria senior defender MaKenna Aure (17) tries to attack the Brainerd-Little Falls defense in a home game on Jan. 11, 2022. Aure finished with one goal and two assists in a 5-2 win for Alexandria. Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Senior goalie Jordan O’Kane earned the win in net, saving 22 out of 24 shots.

Alexandria’s five goal outing is only the third time this season where Brainerd-Little Falls has allowed five goals or more, with Grand Rapids-Greenway and Minnetonka having done so as well. It comes against a Brainerd-Little Falls team that allows just 1.9 goals per game.

The win is a nice confidence boost for Alexandria against the top-ranked team in Section 8AA through the QRF on Minnesota-scorest.net.

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“It’s huge, it’s a big rivalry,” Arola said. “It’s always going to be a battle no matter what. Whether you’re up one goal or four goals, it doesn’t matter between these two teams. So the next game is going to be just as hard and we look forward to that.”

The Cardinals travel to Brainerd for round two between these teams on Jan. 31 in what will be the second-to-last game of the regular season for the Cardinals.

Alexandria has another challenge Friday as it faces another section front runner, this time on the road in Roseau (11-6, 3-2 Section 8AA).

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