Delano fans packed their side of the bleachers at Parade Ice Garden more than a half-hour before the Class 1A, Section 2 final. Then they watched the top-seeded Tigers earn the school's first hockey state tournament berth with a 2-0 victory over playoff nemesis Breck.
Ninth-grader Garrett Pinoniemi scored what proved to be the game-winning goal about eight minutes into the first period. Senior Kyle Ylitalo added a power-play goal midway through the second period. Goaltender Jackson Hjelle, a junior, made 28 saves.
Delano (24-3-1) had lost to Breck (22-4-2) the past four seasons in the section tournament and had not beaten the Mustangs before a 5-2 regular-season victory in November. Coach Gerrit van Bergen estimated the Tigers blocked at least 30 shots Thursday.
Hundreds of people from Delano, a western suburb of about 5,600 people, turned out for a team that included many members who have skated together since they were in mites. Fans who couldn't find a seat on the Delano side found the few empty seats on the Breck side of the stands.
Senior captain Ben Meyers said he couldn't put into words what the win meant for the town. All of the players' youth coaches were on hand, he said. Dozens of community members lined the tunnel as the team emerged after the game.
"I know this whole town is just buzzing," Meyers said. "It's unbelievable."
In other Class 1A section championships:
Section 5/Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake 3, Chisago Lakes 1: Nick Zwack scored two goals to lead the Moose past the Wildcats.
Section 6/St. Cloud Cathedral 3, Alexandria 2: Connor Beltz, James Anderson and Michael Spethmann helped the Crusaders build a 3-0 lead, but Jack Westlund and Derek Berning scored to get the Cardinals within a goal in the third period.
Section 8/East Grand Forks 5, Warroad 1: Nick Lund had a goal and three assists as the Green Wave pulled away from the Warriors in the third period.