The only glitch for South St. Paul freshman goaltender Delaney Norman came during player introductions for the Class 1A, Section 4 final when she clipped her toe on the ice.
"Yeah, I had to get it over with right away," Norman said. "After I took my fall before getting to the blue line, it calmed me down a lot."
That calming effect propelled her to 20 saves in the Packers' 2-0 shutout victory over St. Paul United on Thursday night at Doug Woog Arena in South St. Paul. The fifth-ranked Packers return to state for the first time since 2015.
After a scoreless first period, United grabbed momentum in the second, generating scoring chances and hitting a post on a 2-on-1 opportunity.
"We were rattled there for a few minutes," Packers coach Dave Palmquist said. "We were running around. We were very tired, and it was just survive, survive. And we did."
The Packers got to work late in the period as junior Ella Reynolds skated the puck around the offensive zone and took a shot in the high slot. The puck trickled into the net — once it deflected off freshman Gabby Ogren — for a 1-0 lead.
"I was just hoping to get in front of the net for an opportunity," Ogren said. "I'm not really sure where it went off of, and it ended up going in."
Senior Gabby Madigan gave South St. Paul a two-goal cushion with about six minutes left in the game.
The Packers got a little puck luck on that first goal, Palmquist said. "That's kind of something we've needed the past couple years," he said. "This group has suffered some tough heartbreak these last two years."
Five of the past six section championships have come down to United (13-14-1) and the Packers (19-7-1), and three of the past five had been one-goal games with two ending in overtime.
The Packers (19-7-1) will head to the state tournament for the 15th time in search of their fifth state championship — their last was in 2006. United (13-14-1) had a five-game winning streak ended with the loss.
Section 2 final
Hutchinson 5, Mound Westonka 1: Already ahead 1-0, the Tigers scored three more goals in the first seven minutes of the third.