The Northfield boys’ hockey team pulled off the same accomplishment the girls’ team pulled off a week earlier, finishing fourth in the Class 1A state tournament. It marked the best finish in school history for both squads.

“The state tournament was truly a dream come true for Raider hockey,” Northfield boys’ coach Mike Luckraft said.

Luckraft’s group appeared in its first state tournament. It had lost in the Section 1 finals each of the previous two years.

“This year’s team benefited from the experience of playing in back-to-back section finals,’’ Luckraft said. “It played with a calm confidence even when the semifinal and final games went into overtime.”

Close calls in the state tournament became second nature for the Raiders, who finished with a record of 21-7-3. They upset Mahtomedi 3-1 in the quarterfinals before falling to Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake 3-2 on a goal with three seconds left and St. Cloud Cathedral 2-1 on a goal midway through the final period.

“You never really know how your team is going to respond until that puck drops for Game 1,” Luckraft said. “There’s simply not a way to simulate playing at an NHL arena in front of 10,000 fans.

“We had the state tournament first-period jitters. A few guys openly talked about shaky legs and hands. After that first period we were able to adjust a little, gather ourselves and play well.”

Ron Haggstrom