Minnetonka girls' hockey coaches channeled famed race horse Secretariat as motivation for Saturday's Class 2A state championship game.
The Skippers were pursuing their version of a triple crown, becoming the first girls' hockey team to win three consecutive state championships. Finishing the race would require a thoroughbred-type performance after battling through six overtimes in the semifinals.
A 3-1 victory over Hill-Murray at Xcel Energy Center put Minnetonka in the winner's circle.
Minnetonka took the ice about 18 hours after winning its semifinal game over Lakeville North in a record six overtimes and 113 minutes and 29 seconds. The game ended at 1:02 a.m. Saturday and ESPN ran a short segment on "SportsCenter" featuring a graphic of the game's notable statistics.
The Skippers, boasting seven players either signed or verbally committed to a Division I program, showed no early weakness. They scored first and outshot the Pioneers for the first two periods.
"I'm not surprised but I was wondering how their legs would be," Minnetonka coach Eric Johnson said. "This was a wonderful display of their fitness."
Hill-Murray coach Bill Schafhauser was not surprised with Minnetonka's early surge.
"I was hoping it wouldn't be there," he said.
Darby Flatley got Minnetonka ahead early with a goal at 2:56 of the first period. The Skippers' Maggie Baznay skated down a loose puck before icing could be called and Flatley finished the play by poking home a rebound.
"It was a huge energy goal," Johnson said. "I think it showed the team, 'We've got our legs.' "
A young Hill-Murray team with two seniors on the roster battled back. The Pioneers' Jessica Bonfe knotted the game 1-1 with a power-play goal midway through the second period.
But Minnetonka senior Amy Petersen countered, burying a breakaway chance for a 2-1 lead at 12:40.
Petersen fed Laura Bowman, her friend since preschool, for the final goal at 3:04 of the third period. Bowman carried into the zone and passed to Petersen, who returned the puck for Bowman to hit into the net.
"It was amazing," said Bowman, who scored her team-best 32nd goal of the season. "We knew while we were celebrating that it was a pretty play. We were pretty pumped after that goal."
The Pioneers wilted under the pressure of a two-goal deficit.
"That one was a killer," Schafhauser said. "If we get that next goal maybe they hit some type of wall. But they got the goal and that gave them the energy to go the rest of the way."