March 11, 2017 12:10 AM
For the first time since 2007, the Class AA Boys Hockey State Championship game will be an all-Northern affair after 5-seed Grand Rapids upset 1-seed Eden Prairie 3-2 in a thrilling semifinal Friday night.
Click the video box on this page to see extended highlights of the Class AA Semifinal between Grand Rapids and Eden Prairie
Tied 2-2 with just ofer nine minutes left in the game, Grand Rapids' Keaghan Graeber fought off a defender along the right-side boards, centered a puck while being spun to the ice, then watched Connor Stefan take the pass and score the eventual game-wininng goal.
The effort on the game-winner was indicative of the play from both teams all night long in a game hockey fans will remember for years as part of the rich lore that is the Minnesota State Hockey Tournament.
After Eden Prairie's Ryan Lesko opened the scoring 5:15 into the game, Grand Rapids' John Stampohar scored later in the first to leave the score 1-1 through one.
Stefan set Graeber up for a go-ahead tally 6:29 into the second, but Eden Prairie's Jack Jensen tied it again 2:27 before the second intermission.
Both teams generated superb scoring chances in the third period, but Graeber-to-Stefan with 9:04 to go was the only goal of the final frame.
The game's crescendo reached a fever pitch when Stampohar was sent off for tripping with 1:40 remaining in regulation, leaving Grand Rapids to face a 6-on-4 flurry once Eden Prairie pulled their goalie.
But the Thunderhawks, backstopped by goalie Zach Stejskal, held firm.
Stejskal made 47 saves as Eden Prairie outshot Grand Rapids 49-28.
Nick Wiencek made 25 saves for Eden Prairie, who fall a game short of returning to the State Championship after falling to Wayzata in the AA title game a year ago.
The upset win caps a grueling run to the Final for the Thunderhawks. After beating 11th-ranked Elk river and 14th-ranked Duluth East in the Section 7AA Playoffs, Grand Rapids got through #4 Maple Grove and #1 Eden Prairie at State.
Grand Rapids returns to the State Championship game for the ninth time. Their most recent title shot saw them fall to Roseau in that most-recent 'All-Northern' Final in 2007. The Thunderhawks are 3-5 all-time in Championship games.
Updated: March 11, 2017 12:10 AM
Created: March 11, 2017 12:05 AM
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