Minnetonka forward Laura Bowman sensed her teammates' hopes were fading as the Skippers trailed by two goals to top-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret's in the third period of Friday's Class 2A, Section 6 championship game at Parade Ice Garden in Minneapolis.
Then the second-ranked Skippers, blanked for most of the game, got a goal.
And another to tie.
And a third to take a lead.
Three goals in a four-minute span gave Minnetonka a stirring 3-2 victory and preserved its push toward a third consecutive state championship.
"This was the first time we've been down by two goals and we were losing a little faith," said Bowman, whose goal with less than three minutes to play held up as the game-winner. "As soon as we got the first goal, it gave us so much energy and spirit. This team can do some amazing things."
The Red Knights (25-3) seemed poised to capture their first section title since 2008. Caitlin Reilly gave the Red Knights a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal just 1 minute and 42 seconds into the third period. Reilly went to the backhand and swept a rebound of teammate Liv Halvorson's shot past goalie Sydney Rossman.
Junior forward Kelly Pannek had put Benilde-St. Margaret's ahead 1-0 in the first period. Collecting the puck along the boards at the Red Knights' blue line, Pannek breezed into the Skippers' end and put a puck over Rossman's glove at 6:18.
Minnetonka, which failed to convert on any of its three power plays in the second period, found the mark twice in the final minutes. Hannah Behounek's first goal and Bowman's game-winner were scored with a man advantage.
"I really thought this was our year, but it really fell apart at the end," Red Knights coach Dave Herbst said. "I was a little surprised they called a couple of those penalties in a tight game.
"But it's probably our fault, too, for taking them. You can't give this team power plays all night."
It was a lesson that cost the Red Knights dearly.
"It was a little tighter than we planned to make it," said Amy Petersen, who tied the score with her goal. "They wanted it just as bad as we did, but we got the bounces."