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Quick strike offense leads Warroad past Monticello in Class A tourney opener

Trailing early, second seed Warroad scored goals in bunches and pelted the Monticello goalie for three period, advancing to the state semifinals with a convincing win.

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Warroad forward Daimon Gardner (13) tries to sneak the puck past Monticello goaltender Michael Biller (1) during the first period Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in the State Hockey Tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live
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ST. PAUL – Some players work all year to get noticed on the Hockey Hair videos that have become a big part of the Minnesota State Boys Hockey Tournament. Warroad sophomore center Carson Pilgrim made it a point to get noticed for his hockey more than his hair.

Pilgrim scored a pair of highlight reel goals and his teammate Daimon Gardner pitched in with a hat trick as the Warriors turned an early deficit into a rout on Wednesday, March 9, beating Monticello 7-1 in the Class A tourney opener.

On the way to a berth in Friday’s semifinals, they scored goals 26 seconds apart in the first period and 54 seconds apart in the middle period. That came after Warroad coach Jay Harwick felt his team took some time to adjust to playing in the home rink of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.

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Warroad forward Carson Pilgrim (18) celebrates a goal against Monticello during the first period Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in the State Hockey Tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

“Maybe the bright lights and the new building does that to you sometimes, but after that first period I thought we got going,” Hardwick said. “We were buzzing pretty good in the second and finished it off there in the third.”

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Warroad (25-3-1) will face Mahtomedi with a trip to the title game at stake in Friday’s first Class A semifinal. They fell to Mahtomedi in the semifinals in 2020. They got 18 saves from starting goalie Hampton Slukynsky and the 40th, 41st and 42nd goals of the season from Gardner to win their ninth consecutive game.

The Moose (13-15-1) got 43 saves from senior goalie Michael Biller and an early goal from Quintin Brooks, but could not keep up with Warroad’s relentless offense.

“They kind of re-grouped after we scored and said, ‘wake up, boys’ and unfortunately they woke up,” said Moose coach Eric Nelson. His team was seeded 4th in Section 5A but got to the tournament via upsets of top seed Little Falls and third seed St. Cloud Cathedral. “I have to imagine that part of their game plan was to out-pace us and they pretty much did. We had some spits and stutters, but nothing too consistent.”

Dominating the offensive zone right from the start, the Warriors still found themselves trailing 1-0 after eight minutes thanks to a breakaway goal. From there, it was all black and gold, starting with Pilgrim’s top shelf snipe that tied the game, and Jack Jones scoring the eventual game-winner less than 30 seconds later.

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“It was huge, just kind of getting that ball rolling, just one and then two and then in the second we just pulled away,” said Gardner, who is bound for Clarkson. He took over the game later, scoring late in the second and adding two more early in the third.

Pilgrim added another highlight reel shorthanded goal in the third period, moving past a Monticello defender with an ankle-breaking stick flip, then tucking the puck behind Biller.

“I was going to just flip it over him and see what happened, but I just tapped it around him and he fell, and I just brought it to the net,” Pilgrim said. He and teammates were seen on the bench a short time later, marveling at the replay on the arena’s massive video screens.

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It is the 23th trip to the tournament for Warroad, which is seeking its first state title since 2005. Their girls’ hockey team won the state Class A championship two weeks ago, and the boys admitted there has been some friendly trash talk and encouragement from the girls – including Hardwick’s eighth grade daughter Emmie – to bring another state title trophy home on Sunday.

“It’s pretty special that they did it. When they got back to Warroad…the whole community got together, and I’m thinking, ‘yeah, hopefully that’s us next,’” Pilgrim said.

Warroad 7, Monticello 1

Monticello 1-0-0—1

Warroad 2-2-3—7

First period — 1. MON, Quintin Brooks 4 (Jake Larson), 10:44. 2. WAR, Carson Pilgrim 16 (Todd Powassin), 12:57. 3. WAR, Jack Jones 7 (Murray Marvin-Cordes), 13:23. Penalties — None.

Second period — 4. WAR, Jayson Shaugabay 26 (Matt Hard, Daimon Gardner), 4:03. 5. WAR, Gardner 40 (Hard, Shaugabay), 4:57. Penalties — Brayden Dunn, MON (holding), 11:13.

Third period — 6. WAR, Gardner 41 (Shaugabay, Ryan Lund), 7:25, (pp). 7. WAR, Gardner 42 (Shaugabay), 10:30. 8. WAR, Pilgrim 17 (Marvin-Cordes), 12:42, (sh). Penalties — Garnett Hennum, WAR (tripping), 5:01; Brady Bergstrom, MON (hooking) 6:54; Damon Skappel, WAR (roughing), 10:53; Gardner, WAR (tripping), 16:55.

Shots on goal — MON 6-3-10—19; WAR 14-24-12—50. Goalies — Michael Biller, MON (50 shots-43 saves); Hampton Slukynsky, WAR (19-18). Power plays — MON 0-of-3, WAR 1-of-2. Referees — Ryan Swafford, Ryan Nolander. Linesmen — Morgan Shepard, Brennan Hockman. Att. — NA.

PHOTO GALLERY

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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