An unseeded Duluth East team that barely finished above .500 in the regular season, that benched its star goaltender for a three-week stretch in the middle of the season, that doesn't have a single Mr. Hockey candidate or player committed to a Division I college now finds itself playing for the Class 2A state championship.
How did that happen?
"When people are looking at us as an underdog, it takes a lot of pressure off us and puts a lot of pressure on the other team," Greyhounds senior captain Nick Altmann said Friday night after the unseeded Greyhounds beat two-time defending state champion and No. 2-seeded Edina 3-1 in the state semifinals.
The Hornets were the latest high-profile victim in what has been a magical postseason run for Duluth East (16-10-4), which has now won four consecutive games against higher seeded opponents.
"What we have done is come together as a team," Altmann said about Duluth East's recovery from a dismal start to the season. "I think we all kind of realized, if we are going to do this, we are going to have do this together.
"At the beginning of the season we weren't a team, we were apart from each other. Now we've come together and we'll sacrifice anything for each other."
Altmann scored on a diving swat of the puck 31 seconds into the second period to put the Greyhounds ahead 2-1.
Ash Altmann, Nick's younger brother, scored on a breakaway with 2:41 left in the third period to clinch the victory. Ash, a junior, had been stopped by Edina goaltender Kobi Boe earlier in the game.
"I didn't score on the first one, so I knew I had to redeem myself," Ash Altmann said. "Fortunately I did."
"I was thinking he better put that one in or I am going to kill him," Nick said about watching Ash on breakaway try No. 2.
Edina finishes the season with a 25-2-2 record. Gunnar Howg made 25 saves for Duluth East.