Saturday’s attendance was announced at 3,709, a solid draw for the first two game girls’ hockey championship session ever.
With a goal of increasing attendance at the Xcel Energy Center, the sport’s coaches association gained approval to move Saturday’s Class 1A title game back four hours to 4 p.m. The Class 2A title game started at 7 p.m. Fans could buy one ticket good for both games and more put their money down.
A total of 2,825 fans attended last year’s Class 1A and 2A championship/third-place sessions.
“Improvement is what we were looking for,” said Dale Sager, the coaches association president and the coach at Elk River/Zimmerman. “I don’t know how many people stayed for both games but they got treated to two really good games for one ticket.”
Saturday’s numbers capped a weeklong strong showing at the turnstiles. Overall tournament attendance was 21,365, a record and an improvement of more than 7,500 from 2014.
Two Class 2A session records were reset: Thursday afternoon (4,710) and Friday evening (3,023).
Tickets for Saturday’s championship session cost $17 for adults, $11 for students.
“Was the expectation to fill the lower bowl this year?” Sager said. “No. But if we can improve this year by year and showcase our girls, that would be a success.”
Thief River Falls goalie rebounds
Thief River Falls goaltender Frances Marshall stood tall to maintain the Prowlers’ lead in the late stages of Saturday’s Class 1A championship game.
After falling behind 2-1 with 3 minutes, 6 seconds to play, Blake mounted a ferocious comeback attempting to score an equalizer.
It appeared the Bears got what they desired as leading scorer Carly Bullock skated alone into the slot. Her goal 21 seconds into Saturday’s game came on the backhand and was No. 49 of the season. But Marshall denied her No. 50.
Bullock again went to her backhand but Marshall squared up and the puck disappeared into her pads. Marshall froze the puck, Prowlers fans cheered and Bullock coasted away with her head down momentarily.
Marshall didn’t realize it was Bullock bearing down on her.
“I didn’t really care,” said Marshall, who finished with 26 saves. “I followed the play and guessed the right way.”
Bullock credited Marshall for recovering from the early goal. Bears teammate Karlie Lund added: “[Marshall] had a fantastic game. She stopped everything so props to her.”
At the final horn, Marshall’s teammates rushed her to celebrate. A short time later they applauded her again for receiving the Herb Brooks award for character at center ice.
The Prowlers will remain in St. Paul for Sunday’s Let’s Play Hockey banquet, hoping Marshall, one of five finalists for the Senior Goalie of the Year, is honored again.
“She’s a big reason why we’re here,” Thief River Falls coach Whitney Restemayer said. “Not once has anyone doubted who we have in net.”
Peaking in playoffs
Minnetonka sophomore forward Emma Bigham had nine goals during the regular season. But she has also found the net in key situations lately.
Bigham scored three goals in the state tournament, one in each game. She also scored two in the section playoffs, including the overtime game-winner against Wayzata in the Class 2A, Section 6 final.
She scored only 21 seconds into Saturday’s championship game to give the Skippers a quick lead over Hill-Murray.
Over at Ridder
Class 2A: A pair of goals from Taylor Williamson helped Edina win the third-place game 3-1 over Lakeville South at Ridder Arena. The Cougars’ Morgan Morse scored her fifth goal of the tournament.
Blaine escaped the consolation championship game with a 4-3 overtime victory over Easview. Courtney Moser scored at 3:18 of the extra session. Eastview build a 3-1 second period lead thanks to two goals from Natalie Snodgrass.
Class 1A: Red Wing topped South St. Paul 3-2 in the third-place game, as Taylor Heise scored the winning goal with 53 seconds remaining.
Alexandria beat Hibbing/Chisholm 1-0 for the consolation title. Lauren Niska scored the game’s lone goal while Amy Jost made 26 saves for the Cardinals.