Orono held a recent practice at Xcel Energy Center to prepare for the state tournament environment.
But no bright lights and no crowd meant the Spartans did not get the full effect. That came Wednesday afternoon.
Nerves and Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato conspired to keep No. 3 seed Orono off the scoreboard for the first period. But the Spartans found their groove with a four-goal second period and rolled to a 6-1 victory.
Orono (21-7-1) defeated the Dragons by a combined score of 17-1 in two prior games this season. The Spartans' latest victory extended the program's mastery of the Dragons to 37 consecutive games dating to December 2001.
"There was some of that intimidation factor," Dragons coach Chris Olson said. "And as soon as they got one, you could kind of feel like, 'Here we go again.' "
Goals scored just 27 seconds apart from Lucas Jorgenson and Davey Burns calmed the first-period jitters. Daniel Eckerline and Jack Kubitz doubled the advantage. Jorgenson scored again in the third period.
"After we put one in, I think we knew we could beat them because of our past games," Kubitz said. "We knew once we started scoring we weren't going to stop."
The Dragons (16-12-1) felt it, too. Their plan to grind out a victory through smart, physical play failed.
"Once they start getting goals, it's just kind of hard to stay in the game," said senior defenseman Orrin Grangroth, who scored his team's lone goal on a power play in the third period.
David La Vaque