A pair of goals 68 seconds apart during the third period put upset-minded Thief River Falls ahead by a goal against No. 1 seed Hermantown.
“Our gas tank was full at that point,” Prowlers coach Tim Bergland said.
But at the same time, it revved Hermantown’s engines for a wild ride toward the final horn.
“It fueled our competitive spirit,” Hawks coach Bruce Plante said.
Jared Kolquist pulled Hermantown back even with its northern Minnesota counterpart exactly a minute later, and a fluky goal by Jared Thomas wound up being the difference in a 3-2 Class 1A state semifinal victory by the Hawks.
“We had a rough day getting our legs going,” Plante said. “It took something like [the Prowlers’ second goal] to percolate us. It was a battle til the end. Those are some hard, tough-nosed kids.
“We started banging guys around a little bit, and that helped. Once we started doing that, things started going a little better for us.”
The mood was understandably more dour in the other locker room after the game-winning goal was scored by Thomas with 5:15 left in the game. It came when his harmless centering pass from the half wall toward the Prowlers’ net careened off a defender’s skate and by an unsuspecting Jon Narverud in goal.
“It looked like it was going to go wide so that’s why I followed with it,” a dejected Narverud explained later. “All of the sudden the crowd goes wild. Wasn’t much I could do.”
Thomas was equally surprised.
“I just wanted to turn around and throw it quickly to [teammate Chris Benson] and it ended up going off that skate,” he said. “Fortunate bounce for us. I’ll take it any way I can get it, I guess.”
Thomas also scored Hermantown’s first goal of the game. It gives the Mr. Hockey candidate 30 goals to match his undefeated, untied team’s school-record 30 wins heading into Saturday’s Class 1A championship game rematch with defending champion St. Thomas Academy.
“Some guys can’t throw a puck into the ocean,” Plante said. “Goal scorers score goals. His [game-winner] was a great play. We tell the guys to throw it to the net anyway they can and hope for the bounce. It was nice to get that.”