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Warroad downs South St. Paul, 4-1 in Class A girls hockey tournament semifinals
Packers face Red Wing in third-place game
The penalty kill was a big factor in South St. Paul's upset victory over Warroad in the state semifinals a year ago. Special teams also played a part in Friday's meeting between the Class A girls hockey state powers.
Warroad scored twice with the man-advantage en route to a 4-1 victory Feb. 22 over South St. Paul in the second Class A state semifinal at Xcel Energy Center.
"Today for 51 minutes it was a 1-1 game five on five," said South St. Paul head coach Dave Palmquist. "You've got to take advantage of your power plays and Warroad did so all the credit to them."
The Warriors scored their first two goals on the power play to jump out to a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
"I thought our (penalty) killers did awesome, great positioning and a lot of blocked shots," Palmquist said. "When you've got the power play, they throw things at the net and they outnumbered us a few times and that's the difference."
In last year's state semifinal, South St. Paul killed off all six of its penalties without giving up a goal.
Neither team appeared willing in the first period to take chances that might provide an opening for the other. Quality scoring chances were few and the only goal of the first didn't come about until the final minute. Warroad broke the scoreless tie on Lisa Marvin's power-play goal with 34.6 seconds showing on the clock.
Viner knocks in goal
Things opened up a bit more in the second period, at least for Warroad. The Warriors peppered South St. Paul goalie Sydney Conley with 15 shots and added to their lead thanks to another South St. Paul penalty. Kayla Gardner took a long rebound of a shot by Demi Gardner and beat Conley at 4:59 to make it 2-0.
South St. Paul got on the board three minutes later thanks to a forecheck that resulted in the Packers' first three shots on goal of the second period. Anna Barlow picked off a clearing attempt at the blue line and sent a slap shot on goal, Hannah Hoven chipped the rebound back on net and Riley Viner knocked that rebound past Warroad netminder Dayton Hilgert.
Despite trailing heading into the third period, the Packers felt they were in good position to pull out the victory.
"I really thought we could do this," Viner said. "Our team was working so hard and we were doing so well in the first and second period. It just didn't go our way."
Warroad continued to bottle up South St. Paul in the third period while adding a crucial insurance goal at the same time. Marvin found Sierra Hanowski breaking into the Packers' zone and fed her a backhand pass. Hanowski then beat Conley, who came out to cut down the angle but couldn't corral the shot.
The Warriors then drove home the dagger on Kayla Gardner's empty-net goal with 1:21 left in the third.
This is the third consecutive year that South St. Paul and Warroad have squared off in the state tournament. Two years ago, the Warriors beat the Packers 5-1 in the championship game. The Packers returned the favor last year by knocking off Warroad 4-2 in the semifinals before falling to Breck in the championship game.
With the victory, Warroad advances to Saturday's Class A championship at noon at the Xcel Energy Center against Blake. The Warriors are looking for their third title in four years while the Bears can make it their fourth championship.
South St. Paul will face Red Wing Saturday at 9 a.m. at Xcel for third place.
South St. Paul reached Friday's semifinal by shutting out fifth-seeded Hibbing/Chisholm 3-0 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The Packers broke a scoreless tie on Brigette Miller's goal 2:37 into the third. Miller was also the hero for South St. Paul in the section final last week when she scored the game-winning goal in double overtime against Totino-Grace.
South St. Paul added to its lead against Hibbing on Viner's goal at 8:12 of the third and capped the scoring on Abby Palmquist's power-play tally with 2:14 left.
Viner added two assists for a three-point game, and Lauren Wilcox also had a multiple-point effort with two assists.
In goal, Conley made 11 saves for the shutout. Hibbing's Amanda Klennert made 13 saves before being pulled after giving up South St. Paul's third goal. Backup Megan Frider played the final 2:14 but did not face any shots.
The win over Hibbing avenged an earlier loss to the Bluejackets for the Packers. Hibbing beat South St. Paul 4-3 in the quarterfinals of the Kaposia Classic holiday tournament back on Dec. 29. Following the loss, South St. Paul won 11 of its final 12 regular-season games and then beat Mahtomedi and Totino-Grace in the Section 4A playoffs to reach its record 13th state tournament.