Finally, on its ninth state tournament trip and seventh semifinal appearance, St. Cloud Cathedral broke through and reached its first championship game.
The second-seeded Crusaders defeated East Grand Forks 6-2 on Friday in the first Class 1A semifinal. They advance to the title game at noon Saturday against No. 4 seed Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, a team they defeated 5-3 earlier this season.
"There have been a lot of good teams that haven't been able to get past the semis," junior forward Jack Smith said. "We're a bunch of guys who work hard and get the puck in the net."
The Crusaders (26-4) found their scoring touch early, getting goals from Smith plus second-line forwards Ethan Cumming and Cullen Hiltner for a 3-1 lead after one period.
No. 3 seed East Grand Forks (22-8) got its chance to get closer with 47 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage in the second period. But the Green Wave never crested.
"I'm not going to say that was the turning point in the game, but that could have made it a different game," East Grand Forks coach Tyler Palmiscno said. "We were never able to get it back to a one-goal game."
Crusaders coach Derrick Brown felt otherwise.
"That 5-on-3 power [play] they had, I think that was the momentum-turner of the game," Brown said. "We got through that and felt pretty good about our chances the rest of the game."
Smith, who has verbally committed to Minnesota Duluth, scored again later in the second period for his 30th goal of the season. East Grand Forks, which lost to the Crusaders 7-2 during the season, couldn't catch up.
"We knew it wasn't over, but we knew we had a ways to go," East Grand Forks forward Landon Parker said. "… It was just hard to respond."