There were upsets, overtimes, record crowds and razor-thin victory margins, and two victory celebrations in a single championship game.
This year's boys' hockey state tournament was drenched in so much drama, many longtime observers wondered aloud, "Is this the best tournament ever?"
"It has been an awesome tournament," Grand Rapids coach Trent Klatt said. "There haven't been any easy games for anybody."
Entering Saturday's Class 2A championship game between Grand Rapids and Moorhead, the combined margin of victory in championship-round games in both tournament classes — 10 goals in Class 1A, 11 goals in Class 2A — was the lowest in more than decade.
"That kind of has been the story of the year — parity," Moorhead coach Jon Ammerman said. "Hockey is getting better everywhere, it's not just the traditional powers."
The upper levels of Xcel Energy Center were opened for Class 1A games on Friday and Saturday for just the second and third times since it has been hosting the tournament. Attendance records were set both days.
"I'd say both classes of the tournament have made it great overall because of the quality of the games," said Lou Nanne, back to call state tournament games on television for the 54th year. "They've all been so close."
In 14 championship-round games in the two classes, only three games were decided by more than two goals. And empty-net goals were scored in all three.
Hermantown, the overwhelming favorite to win a second consecutive Class 1A title, was pushed to overtime three times. In the championship, the Hawks needed two winning goals — the first was waved off for goaltender interference — to defeat upstart Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake in two overtimes.
Lower-seeded teams won five of the combined eight quarterfinal games. Fifth-seeded Grand Rapids registered three upsets en route to the Class 2A title.
Staff writer David La Vaque contributed to this report