Warroad girls' hockey coach Scott Knutson did not make it out of their Class A State Semifinal against New Prague unscathed. His team did however.
"After our 4th goal, the girls were jumping up and down on the bench, and one of them turned and their stick came up and hit me right underneath the eye," Knutson said. "I guess I took one for the team, but that's okay."
Knutson could be in a forgiving mood after the Warriors defeated New Prague 5-2, moving on to the championship game in their first trip to the state tournament.
Warroad fired 44 shots on goal in the game, but it was a play by their goalie that actually helped set the tone. New Prague star Jenna Kilpatrick was skating in alone just thirty-one seconds into the game, but Warriors goalie Morgan Pieper poked the puck away just before Kilpatrick was going to shoot.
"I thought oh no, here we go, a breakaway right away," said Knutson. "Morgan did a nice job. It's tough to fall behind anytime you're playing in a game, but you do not want to be behind the 8-ball right away."
After a scoreless first period, Warroad started to find the net in the second. Brook Storey got them on the board first with a power play goal at 1:23. Less than two minutes later, Ms. Hockey finalist Holly Roberts tucked one in from the side of the cage to make it 2-0. Roberts then made it 3-0 with a pretty short handed goal. She got the puck around center ice and just flew to the net, putting on a nice move on the goalie and sliding the puck into the open net.
"She's very, very quick. She's also a physical player, she'll go to the net, she'll take hits," Knutson said of Roberts. "And as you watch the game you see her laying on the ice quite a bit because she is getting hooked, slashed and checked all game long. She's not afraid of that, she gets back up and takes it right back to the net again."
New Prague got right back up after falling behind 3-0. Kilpatrick scored with under a minute left in the second to give the Trojans some life. Courtney Sivula scored on the power play early in the third to pull New Prague within 3-2, and make things interesting.
"Our girls sat back there for awhile and let them (New Prague) take it to us for awhile," said Knutson. "Finally we went back and attacked and got the next goal and that was huge."
Billye Nelson scored that next goal for Warroad, and then Brook Storey got her second goal of the game with an empty netter with just over a minute remaining to make it 5-2.
Warroad will face the winner of the South St. Paul-Alexandria game for the title Saturday afternoon. If the shots and sticks are flying again for Warroad, Knutson may want to wear a helmet behind the bench.