East Grand Forks holds on against Thief River Falls, will meet Warroad in Minnesota Section 8A championship
The Green Wave scored two first-period goals and outlasted the Prowlers in a 3-1 win.
East Grand Forks Senior High started fast then held on to beat Thief River Falls 3-1 on Tuesday night in the semifinal round of the Minnesota Section 8A boys hockey tournament -- a win that advances the Green Wave to Thursday night’s championship game at Warroad.
Green Wave head coach Tyler Palmiscno knew the importance of getting the first goal against a team that takes away a lot of ice.
“It’s very important when you play Thief River to play with a lead,” said Palmiscno. “They clogged up the middle and made it really hard for us to have numbers on the rush. So, to play with the lead made it that much more important.”
The opening five minutes of the game featured heavy offensive pressure from the Green Wave as they made their presence known with speed and quick decision-making. They were rewarded early with a power play opportunity followed by a power play goal from junior defenseman Trey Ausmus.
“Trey has the ability to take over a game when the puck is on his stick,” said Palmiscno. “He did a good job early on that power play reading what they were giving him. They were allowing him to shoot it and he jumped up and made a good play there.
Ausmus notched three points in the game.
The Prowlers and Green Wave traded goals seconds apart later in the first slate. Freshman Grady Magner converted on a scramble in front of Prowler goalie Brett Holmer and Justin Funk beat Cole Quirk clean over his glove on an odd-man rush, giving East Grand Forks a 2-1 lead headed into the locker room.
“We just didn’t play a lot of close games this year,” said Thief River Falls coach Tim Bergland said. “We either won by a bunch or lost by a bunch. These one-goal games were fun to play in and it was a good hockey game tonight.”
EGF aimed to push the play into the offensive zone, but Thief River Falls was still able to collect a number of opportunities on the rush. Ausmus was the catalyst in defending those chances.
The Prowlers kept their physicality going but the bounces didn’t go their way in order to tie the game and pressure the Green Wave to change their game.
“We had an empty-net there and it goes wide somehow. Credit (East Grand Forks), they worked hard and beat us to the puck,” said Bergland.
“We didn’t do a good job of getting pucks behind their defensemen and part of that was the way they played the neutral zone. We didn’t dump pucks very well which caused turnovers and gave them some opportunities,” Palmiscno said.
A crucial penalty came as the second period ended. Senior Landon Parker was ushered off for tripping with two seconds remaining and the Green Wave would face a tough test coming out of the intermission down a skater. Palmiscno thought his squad handled the situation well and even gained momentum from it.
“They never really got the puck set up on their man advantage and then the third goal was obviously a big one,” he said.
Late in the third, it was a North Dakota-commit who would supply the dagger. Sophomore Jaksen Panzer powered his way to the front of the net and made sure his ninth of the year went past Holmer, extending the Green Wave lead to 3-1.
The Prowlers certainly made it tough, but East Grand Forks was able to hold off the strong push and solidify their spot in the Section 8A championship.
While these two teams battled, No. 1 seed Warroad was in the midst of taking care of Red Lake Falls, mounting an 8-1 lead while the middle frame carried on in the Civic Center. As updates came in over the public address system, the Wave paid no attention to their future opponent’s score.
“We’re not looking any farther ahead than tomorrow. We’re going to need a good practice tomorrow and then we’ll head up to Warroad Thursday,” said Palmiscno.
Warroad went on to win their matchup 11-1, clinching the Green Wave and Warrior championship for the third consecutive year, though Palmiscno and his squad are sure not to overlook how important this semifinal game was.
“I’ve said it before but to beat Thief River in the playoffs is a hard thing,” said Palmiscno. “Every year they play their best hockey at the end of the year when a lot of teams struggle to do that. They’re never an easy out,” he said.
East Grand Forks can now officially move their attention to Warroad once again. The Thursday duel will be their third this year. The two split on the season, each winning on the road.