When St. Paul United goalie Catherine Johnson allowed two early goals to Warroad on Friday, her coach Nate Mauer said he wasn't worried.
Johnson said she sat in the locker room by herself during the first intermission, reminding herself to stay confident, reminding herself what she was playing for.
Johnson buckled down and Joie Phelps scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, giving St. Paul United a 4-3 victory at Xcel Energy Center and sending the co-op program to the state final for the first time.
For Johnson, it was a cathartic victory given St. Paul United (23-5-1) had squandered a third-period lead in the state semifinals two seasons ago.
"It's amazing to see how the program has turned around and to see how it's going to keep going up," Johnson said. The team has players from two schools — St. Paul Academy and Visitation.
Warroad's two early goals from Kaitlyn Kotlowski and Mariah Gardner were matched by goals from Sena Hanson and Samantha Burke of the Spartans.
Warroad (24-4-1) went back up on a second-period goal from Demi Gardner, but St. Paul United countered with a goal from Lauren Boettcher.
In what was a physical game on both sides, Warroad struggled through nine penalties and gave up three power-play goals. Afterward a visibly upset Warroad coach David Marvin said he wished his team's pursuit of a state title could have ended differently.
"I thought they went hard on our goaltender when our goaltender had the puck covered," Marvin said. "Whatever. We stood up for our goaltender little bit. We took too many [penalties]. Whatever. It's the high school league so I have to be positive and sportsmanlike, right?"