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MINNESOTA SECTION 8A BOYS HOCKEY TOURNAMENT: Warriors rule once more

THIEF RIVER FALLS - Warroad co-coach Albert Hasbargen couldn't confirm whether it was his team's fifth title in the past six years. ?I don't know, you'll have to look that up,? Hasbargen said. The other Warrior co-coach, Bruce Olson, wasn't sure,...

THIEF RIVER FALLS - Warroad co-coach Albert Hasbargen couldn't confirm whether it was his team's fifth title in the past six years.

"I don't know, you'll have to look that up," Hasbargen said.

The other Warrior co-coach, Bruce Olson, wasn't sure, either. He just knew it was two in a row.

Like their neighbor to the west down Minnesota Highway 11 did a night earlier in the same Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Warriors repeated as a section hockey champion Thursday night.

The Warriors scored two power-play goals in a span of 1 minute, 43 seconds and received 25 saves from Jared Paquin to defeat East Grand Forks Senior High 2-0 in the Section 8A boys hockey final.

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And, yes, it is five titles in six years. Thief River Falls' title in 2006 interrupted the Warrior string. Senior High was looking for its first section title since 2002, when it defeated Warroad.

The Warriors take a 22-6 record into the state tournament, which begins Wednesday in St. Paul. They join neighbor Roseau, which plays in the state Class AA tournament beginning next Thursday in St. Paul.

Warroad can thank its power play for its latest trip. Both goals came on big shots with the man advantage.

First, Jon Hellquist took a drop pass from Michael Pieper and fired one past the stick side of Senior High goalie Alex Christiansen at 9:43 of the second. Then Pieper took a pass from Bryce Ravndalen and whistled a shot over Christiansen's left shoulder at 11:26.

Warroad's only mission in the third was to play good, smart defense.

"We figured if East Side can get three scores on us, we'll be the first one to line up and shake their hand," Olson said.

With Warroad concentrating on defense, the Green Wave still had some good chances in the third period, even while skating shorthanded. But Paquin stood his ground. A backup last season, he won the starting job in the last few weeks of this season.

Thursday, he showed why.

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"I just stood up and starting playing well," Paquin said of his late-season surge. "I wanted to be the starter."

Senior High coach Cory Chupka was impressed by the goalie.

"He was a big part of their win," Chupka said. "When it comes down to the championship game, you need good goaltending, and they got it."

Pieper, a defenseman, also stepped up his play late in the season after Warroad lost defenseman Tai Larson to an injury. Larson remains questionable for the state tournament.

Senior High, which ended its season at 13-14-1, had a 25-22 edge in shots on goal.

"We did what we wanted to do," Chupka said. "We just couldn't find the goals. That was the difference."

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