They couldn't ask for a better state tournament debut.
The Prowlers of Thief River Falls emerged from their first trip to the girls' state hockey tournament as state champions. They spoiled Blake's bid for a third consecutive Class 1A title, defeating the Bears 3-1 Saturday in the final at Xcel Energy Center.
Thief River Falls senior Emily Bergland scored the winning goal high on the glove side with 3 minutes, 6 seconds left in regulation. The Prowlers (26-1-3) still had a challenge, however, as they went shorthanded with 1:23 left.
"I just saw an opening," Bergland said. "I knew I had to get it up top."
Her dad, Tim, was also in the building to see her goal. He coaches the Thief River Falls boys' hockey team, which played Saturday night in Warroad in the Section 8A semifinals.
"Are you kidding me? I would never miss it," Bergland said her dad told her.
Facing the 2-1 deficit, Blake's title run appeared to run out of steam at the end of Saturday's game.
Playing shorthanded already, the Bears (26-5) pulled their goalie in the final minute. Prowlers sophomore Callie Fagerstrom got the puck in the offensive zone circle and simply shot it down toward the empty net. It went in with 44.4 seconds to go to ice the title.
She said she knew the net was empty at the other end.
"Actually, I just kind of threw it in the general direction," Fagerstrom said. "Yeah, I'll never forget that."
Thief River Falls took advantage of its first power-play opportunity in the second period for its first goal. Sophomore Kora Torkelson jammed in a rebound right in front of the crease with 18 seconds remaining on the man-advantage to tie the score at 1-1.
Blake took a 1-0 lead only 21 seconds in on a goal by Carly Bullock, but that was the only goal Frances Marshall gave up on 27 shots.
In beating Blake, Prowlers coach Whitney Restemayer said her team succeeded in showing what not only Northern Minnesota can do, both also what Thief River Falls has, too.
"These girls had huge goals for themselves," Restemayer said. "They were really upset that we were not here last year."
The Prowlers treated the final against Blake as any other game, Restemayer said. For Bergland, she knew they needed to match Blake's play and score on their own opportunities.
"We just wanted to be the team that could beat somebody like that," she said.