White Bear Lake's Leo Gabriel showed a knack for the goaltender position from about age 7.

Challenging himself against the bigger kids on the neighborhood pond, Gabriel impressed White Bear Lake youth coach Garrett Hofeld, who asked Gabriel's parents which team he tended goal for.

He's not a goalie, they responded.

"He sure looks like one," Hofeld said.

Gabriel looked the part again Friday, pitching a 3-0 shutout of rival Hill-Murray in the Class 2A, Section 4 championship game. He stopped all 35 shots and kept the Pioneers flustered with almost no rebound attempts.

White Bear Lake returns to the state tournament for the first time since 2019. Hill-Murray (17-9-2) was aiming to defend its section championship at a soldout Aldrich Arena in Maplewood, the Pioneers' home ice.

Instead, the Bears (20-7-1) got a goal in the first minute from Jack Stanius and empty-net goals in the final minute from Blake Eckerle and Nolan Roed.

In between the goals was consistent play from Gabriel, who recorded his eighth shutout of the season.

"Leo played amazing," Bears coach Chris Anderson said. "He swallowed up most of their shots tonight."

Friday night marked the Bears' and Pioneers' 20th section final meeting since 1984-85. Hill-Murray had won 14 of 19, including four of the past five.

The teams tied 3-3 on Dec. 23.

White Bear Lake started the third period with 1:22 of a 4-on-3 advantage, but nothing came of the opportunity. Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner expressed confidence in his players that they could kill the penalties, then get on the scoreboard.

"We worked our plans well on those penalty kill situations," Lechner said. "But then you've got to score. And Gabriel played well. He got hot and you could see it coming."

Lechner expected his team to tie the game and win in overtime. The Pioneers were 3-1-2 in extra-session games this season.

Instead, the Bears' Tyler Lalonde drew a penalty at 15:13 of the third period. Hill-Murray was forced to pull the goalie, and Eckerle and Roed filled the empty net.

"We kept them to the perimeter," Eckerle said. "Leo's amazing from anywhere, but we wanted to keep them outside."