For the Edina girls' hockey team, defending its Class 2A state tournament title started with, well, defending.
The Hornets opened by silencing Brainerd/Little Falls in a shutout and then hushing Eden Prairie's young standouts in the semifinals. Saturday's championship game brought Centennial's Gabbie Hughes and Anneke Linser, the state's finest offensive tandem.
Top-ranked Edina held them to a dull roar in a 2-1 victory. Whether, choking off shooting lanes, crowding prime scoring areas or maintaining a physical presence, the Hornets earned a second banner.
"You have to give them a lot of attention," senior defender Eva Hendrikson said of Hughes and Linser, the top-scoring duo in Class 2A with a combined 156 points. "We gave them the credit they deserve, but in the end, our players took it to them as well."
Aliyah Lance, one of eight Hornets players committed to a Division I college program, scored the deciding goal for a second consecutive game. No. 1 seed Edina (28-2-1) avenged a 3-2 loss at Centennial on Dec. 22.
The teams were tied 1-1 when Lance converted a power-play opportunity. She raced in and fired the puck over Mackenna Stoterau's glove at 2 minutes, 39 seconds of the third period for a 2-1 lead.
Moments earlier, Linser's attempt at a go-ahead goal hit the post. Open looks were a rare commodity for Centennial's scoring aces.
"Them and Blake really gave us a dogfight," said Linser, who scored in the first two tournament games. "They were really on us. We tried our best and did what we could."
Edina's Emily Oden opened the scoring in the second period with her 34th goal of the season. She said the Hornets' title defense did not come easy.
"Coming back the second year, everyone's out to get us," she said. "To defend it is super hard and to win it again is definitely special."
Linemate Lolita Fidler added: "I think we were out to prove to everyone, also, that there was a reason we won it the first year."
Hughes, who Centennial turned to all season for big goals, answered Oden. Her power-play marker at 14:35 gave Hughes 46 goals this season. Though wary of putting the Cougars on the power play, Edina maintained its physical approach.
"Playing the body, trying to wear them down shift by shift, was definitely something we talked about going into the game," Hornets coach Sami Reber said.
No. 2 seed Centennial (25-4-1) tried to become the first team since 2010 other than Hill-Murray or a Lake Conference representative to win a big-school title. Fellow Northwest Suburban Conference teams Maple Grove and Blaine fell short in the past two title games.
When Lance scored to put Edina ahead, the team made sure Centennial suffered a similar fate.
"Our team, when we're up, we can hold a lead because we know how to do all the little things," she said. "Just play defense. Edina hockey."