Maple Grove, a boys' hockey program anchored by 15 seniors, found the younger kids on the roster are all right.
Sophomore forward Tyler Kostelecky scored twice, including the game-winning goal, as the Crimson defeated Centennial 4-3 in the Class 2A, Section 5 championship played Thursday at Aldrich Arena.
No. 9 Maple Grove (22-6) returns to the state tournament for the first time since 2012.
A third-period goal from Graham Brickner gave No. 5 Centennial (22-5-1) hope, but the Cougars drew no closer. The reason: Maple Grove freshman goalie Ethan Haider played beyond his years in the clutch.
"We thought we'd be able to get to him and we didn't," Centennial coach Ritch Menne said. "When Graham scored, we're thinking that the dam finally broke and we were going to get some more. But [Haider] was terrific to the end."
The teams raced to a five-goal first period. Kostelecky and senior Sam Huff put Maple Grove ahead 2-1. Centennial's Hayden Brickner tied it 2-2 before Huff fired a puck home for a 3-2 lead.
Huff, Maple Grove's leading scorer with 22 goals, had been without a goal in three consecutive games before popping two in the first period.
"You want to get a couple back to help out the team," Huff said. "But we're deep so I wasn't feeling pressure to score."
The teams split two Northwest Suburban Conference meetings, but Maple Grove prevailed when it mattered most.
Crimson youngsters Kostelecky and Haider did not get overwhelmed in the moment.
"Haider's been a stud all year," Huff said. "And Kos has great speed and got better all year."
With 50 seconds remaining in the second period, Kostelecky buried a drop pass from Matthew Jaglo for a 4-2 Crimson lead.
"I think he saw me over his shoulder," Kostelecky said. "It was a good play by him."