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Grant Slukynsky, Jayson Shaugabay and Anthony Foster give Warroad an explosive trio at state

The top-seeded Warriors are looking for their first state title since T.J. Oshie's senior season in 2005.

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Warroad's Jayson Shaugabay, left, and Anthony Foster react to a goal in the third period against Red River Saturday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Warroad coach Jay Hardwick knew that Jayson Shaugabay was an elite hockey player, but didn't know how he would fit in this season.

After all, Shaugabay was just a freshman attempting to play varsity hockey in Minnesota Section 8A.

"He's had success at every level," Hardwick said. "You just don't know if it's going to continue to translate. Obviously, it has. He's a very talented hockey player. It's been a lot of fun to watch."

Shaugabay has taken the state by storm, piling up 64 points in 25 games as a ninth-grader and filling a key role on one of the most productive lines in the state.

As college recruiters eagerly wait for him to become old enough to pursue, and as USA Hockey officials scout him for future National Team Development Program possibilities, Shaugabay has joined forces with Northern Michigan-bound senior Grant Slukynsky and junior Anthony Foster to put together a trio that has rarely been stopped.

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They enter Wednesday's state tournament quarterfinal game against Hutchinson (6 p.m., Xcel Energy Center) with 207 points in 28 games this season.

"I think, offensively, all three of them have shown what they can do," Hardwick said. "But defensively, they're just as good. I'm comfortable putting them on the ice in all situations and in all three zones."

They've been at their best as of late, too.

Shaugabay had two goals in a 4-0 win over East Grand Forks Senior High in the section title game, leaving him one goal short of a hat trick in a fourth-consecutive game. He has 11 goals in the last four games.

Slukynsky, the playmaker of the group, had 14 points in three games during the Section 8A tournament. He has 89 points for the season, surpassing the total that New York Islanders star Brock Nelson posted as a senior at Warroad (85).

Slukynsky opted to play this season with the Warriors instead of in the United States Hockey League. He's expected to join the Fargo Force after the high school season.

"His goal and his mindset was that he wanted to come back to Warroad and go to a state tournament," Hardwick said. "He's been a great leader for us. Now, to do that as a senior, and accomplish that goal not only for himself but for his entire team, I couldn't be happier for him."

Foster, who has 54 points this season, adds another element to that line.

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"I don't know if you're going to find a kid that works harder than Anthony," Hardwick said. "He's a junkyard dog, always working. The kid is tougher than nails. He brings that work ethic and that grind to that line, which you don't always get when you have a top-end, skilled line. He provides the work ethic for that line. He does the dirty things for the others."

Back to state

The Warriors aren't all offense.

Goaltender Zach Foster enters state with a scoreless streak of 156:57 dating back to a Feb. 11 game against Lake of the Woods. He didn't allow a goal in the Section 8A tournament.

"Everyone has bought into the concept of team defense," Hardwick said. "It is a complete effort from the goaltender on out."

This will mark Warroad's first trip to the state tournament since 2010, when Brock Nelson was a senior. The Warriors are the tournament's No. 1 seed, hoping to bring home their first title since Washington Capitals star T.J. Oshie was a senior in 2005.

"It's been unbelievable," said Hardwick, a member of Warroad's 1996 state title team. "The excitement surrounding the team has been a lot of fun. We haven't been to state in 10 years. Everyone has been waiting for a while. I hadn't experienced it as a coach yet. Now, to finally do it, it's hard to put into words."

Minnesota Class A boys state tournament

Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul.

Today's quarterfinals: No. 2 St. Cloud Cathedral vs. Mankato East, 11 a.m.; No. 3 Hermantown vs. Monticello, 1 p.m.; No. 1 Warroad vs. Hutchinson, 6 p.m.; No. 4 Mahtomedi vs. No. 5 Delano, 8 p.m.

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Friday's semifinals: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Saturday's championship: Noon.

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Warroad co-captains Grant Slukynsky (27) and Zach Foster (35) hoist the Minnesota Section 8A championship trophy after defeating East Grand Forks Senior High 4-0 Thursday night in Thief River Falls. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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