East Grand Forks saw one of its players checked hard into the Mahtomedi bench. The Zephyrs' goalie was dazed as the Green Wave crashed the net. Each team had a player penalized for trading vicious hits near center ice.
Pugnacious play was just what defending champion East Grand Forks desired.
"That was our number one key to the game, to make that game a man's game and force them out of their comfort zone," Green Wave coach Tyler Palmiscno said.
It worked. The Green Wave rocked and rolled to a 5-2 victory and a spot in Saturday's Class 1A championship game.
"It's extremely rewarding," Palmiscno said. "To be a two-time defending section champion and defending state champion puts a gigantic target on your back. We've learned to battle and compete for everything we've got, and I thought today we battled hard."
No. 2 seed Mahtomedi (25-3-2) kept pace for a while as Timothy Kuivinen's goal at 8:22 of the second period tied the game 2-2. From there, the teams went in opposite directions. Grant Loven completed his hat trick later in the second period as No. 3 seed East Grand Forks (25-4) pulled away.
"I don't know that I would say there was a breaking point," Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl said. "When you play a physical game, it's very exhausting. I don't think they intimidated us, but I think they wore us down physically."
The Green Wave first line of center Dixon Bowen and wings Tanner Tweten and Loven "played with such urgency that I don't think [Mahtomedi] could match it," Palmiscno said.
Loven shrugged off his exploits, sharing credit with his linemates.
"It was just good team play and I was lucky enough to put the goals in," said Loven, adding his third goal, "got us the lead, I guess. I was pretty happy. It was a good pass by Tweten."