Saturday night’s Class 2A girls’ hockey state championship game offered a contrast in styles and in circumstance.
On one side, you had top-seeded Edina, the two-time defending champion sporting a deep and dominant lineup. On the other, you had Brainerd/Little Falls, an upset-minded team that knocked off No. 2 seed Andover in the semifinals.
Fans in attendance at Xcel Energy Center were treated to a thrilling, back-and-forth game, which needed two overtimes to decide. In the end, Edina secured its three-peat with a 4-3 victory in which two seniors named Olivia played starring roles for opposing teams.
For the Hornets, it was Olivia Swaim, who scored on a rebound 2 minutes, 20 seconds into the second overtime to win the championship. Swaim’s goal came against Brainerd/Little Falls goalie Olivia King, who did everything in her power to keep her team in the game and give it a chance for the upset.
“It’s definitely the best thing I ever experienced,’’ Swaim said. “I was just really glad the overtimes didn’t keep going, because we were all getting tired.’’
The game kept going in large part because of King, who made an eye-popping 51 saves.
“She kept us in the game. She bailed us out countless times,’’ Warriors teammate Cheyenne Abear said through tears. “She had our backs even when we didn’t have hers.’’
Edina coach Sami Reber concurred. “Absolutely hats off to their goalie. She played an incredible hockey game.’’
Brainerd had the upset within reach when it grabbed a 3-2 lead 1:32 into the third period. But Edina took advantage of a five-minute power play following a checking from behind penalty on the Warriors. King stopped the first nine shots on the extended advantage, before the Hornets’ Tella Jungels knotted the score with 5:59 left in the period.
Overtime was needed, and Swaim remained confident. “Eventually, she’s going to let one in,’’ she said.
Afterward, Swaim called the title her favorite in the three-peat. “No. 1, for sure,’’ she said. “It was the toughest and I think it was the biggest team effort on our part.’’
For Brainerd coach Jim Ernster, King’s impact on the program will last.
“Olivia started as an eighth-grade girl, and she has grown into such a tremendous young woman that I have no doubt that whatever she sets her mind to … she’s going to be successful,’’ he said. “Her poise and her leadership were so tremendous. She’s going to leave our program better because of her.’’
The finality of the loss hit King hard after the game.
“I know I’m not crying right now, but I’m very upset and I’m sure I’ll cry later,’’ King said, her voice cracking. “It’s crazy to think that possibly could be my last hockey game, especially with these girls I played with for so long. They’re my best friends. They’re my family.’’