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Maple Grove solves Bump, Giuliani gets hot as Crimson advance to title game

Joshua Giuliani now has five goals in the tournament as the Crimson aim to hang school's first title banner

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Maple Grove forward Joshua Giuliani (19) scores on Prior Lake goaltender Trevor Boschee (1) during the first period Friday, March 11, 2022, in the State Boys Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

ST. PAUL — They say hitting is contagious. That’s a baseball phrase, of course, but the Maple Grove boys hockey team took it and applied to their game plan.

The majority of the buzz heading into Friday’s Class AA semifinal was focused on Prior Lake’s Alex Bump and the question was if he could come close to replicating his five-goal performance he had in the quarterfinals.

But Maple Grove had other ideas for how Friday’s game would be remembered.

The Crimson ramped up the checking and physicality on Prior Lake, but specifically took away Bump’s time and space to work with the puck and added to his frustration.

The in-your-face game plan worked to perfection and Joshua Giuliani recorded a hat trick for Maple Grove in its 6-2 win over Prior Lake at the Xcel Energy Center.

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“There were lots of questions as to what we were going to do with [Bump],” said Maple Grove coach Todd Bergland. “We just played our game and we weren’t going to give him space and we stuck to our game plan.”

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Maple Grove forward Joshua Giuliani (19) celebrates a goal against Prior Lake during the first period Friday, March 11, 2022, in the State Boys Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

The Crimson head to the championship game of the Class AA State Boys Hockey Tournament at 7 p.m. Saturday with a 23-6-1 record. It'll face Andover, which stopped top-seeded Hill-Murray in Friday's late game. Prior Lake (19-11-0) will play for third place at 4 p.m. against the Pioneers.

“The job’s not finished and obviously, we can be happy about tonight’s win but tomorrow’s a whole new day,” Giuliani said.

Hits and body checks are not tracked statistics in the state tournament, so the only way to measure the physicality is with the eye.

Anyone could see the Crimson were intent on using the body to disrupt everything that worked well for Prior Lake in its 6-0 win over Cretin-Derham Hall on Thursday.

Maple Grove had already taken a 2-0 lead on goals by Giuliani, which made the Lakers perhaps a little more frantic.

When Bump finally got the puck on his stick in open space midway through the first period, he was able dangle his way on the rush to an open pocket of the offensive zone, but a backchecking Finn Brink lifted his stick just as Bump set himself up for a point-blank wrist shot.

And while it seemed there wasn’t a Crimson player not willing to put a body check on Bump, Danny Nelson can say he was the Maple Grove player who dropped Bump to the ice.

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Maple Grove goaltender Toby Hopp (1) deflects a puck against Prior Lake during the third period Friday, March 11, 2022, in the State Boys Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Giuliani supplemented his offensive game with the work he did on Bump physically and mentally.

“I started off the game maybe not saying the nicest words to [Bump],” Giuliani said. “Nothing to take away from him, he’s still a great player and he knows that’s just part of the game. I told him that after the game."

Added Bergland: “I don’t think you can find a better guy than [Giuliani] to get under the skin but play the right way and he’s a sniper on top of it.”

The Lakers finally got on the board when Justin Kingery scored with 3:23 to play in the first period, but Brink scored shorthanded to take away any momentum Prior Lake was looking to bring into the intermission.

Looking for the equalizer late in the first, the Lakers won the faceoff just after going on the power play, but they got crossed up along the blue line of the Maple Grove zone, which led to Will Schumacher having to retrieve the puck in the neutral zone.

Brink intercepted Schumacher’s backhanded pass attempt, broke free down the middle and his wrist shot beat Prior Lake goalie Trevor Boschee with 47.4 seconds left in the first period.

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The Hawks allowed an early goal, but locked down defensively and allowed just six shots the rest of the game.

“After they scored that goal, our whole team kind of went into a droopy mood,” said Lakers senior captain Jackson Anderson. “Walking into the locker room, everyone was pretty quiet. Everyone seemed pretty distraught after that goal.”

Bump gave the Lakers life when he put a wrist shot on goal that Crimson goaltender Toby Hopp misplayed with the glove 5:57 into the second period, but the excitement was short-lived. Landon Gunderson scored three minutes later and Giuliani completed the hat trick with 2:48 left in the second.

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“We played one of the biggest high school teams tonight that I’ve seen in a long time,” Prior Lake coach Joe Pankratz said. “They played physical, fast and smacked us around a little bit tonight and we couldn’t bounce back from it. It took us out of a lot of things we like to do.”

PHOTO GALLERY (click/swipe to view)

Follow the Minnesota boys hockey postseason with state tournament information and brackets from every section.

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