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Warroad wins first boys hockey section title in a decade by topping East Grand Forks

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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

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. -- It has been so long since Warroad has gone to state in boys hockey that senior forward Grant Slukynsky could only remember bits and pieces of the last time.

"My memories are not that good, but I remember a little bit," he said. "Brock Nelson was on the team. It was his senior year. So, it's been a while."

It's been a decade to be exact.

Nelson has since gone on to NHL stardom with the New York Islanders, but the Warriors have another big, skilled senior forward bringing them back to St. Paul.

Slukynsky, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound center, had a goal and two assists to lead Warroad past East Grand Forks Senior High 4-0 in the Minnesota Section 8A championship game Thursday night in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

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It capped off a huge Section 8A tournament for Slukynsky, who had 14 points in three games.

His linemate, freshman Jayson Shaugabay, had two goals and an assist, nearly notching a hat trick for the fourth consecutive game.

And goaltender Zach Foster completed the section tournament without allowing a goal, posting his third-straight shutout. He will enter next week's state tournament in Xcel Energy Center with a scoreless streak of 156:57 dating back to a Feb. 11 game against Lake of the Woods.

But the only stat that mattered after the game was that Warroad ended its decade-long state-tournament drought, which included losses in the section championship game in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.

"Sophomore year, we lost in the semifinals at home," Slukynsky said. "That was really tough. Last year, losing the section final to East Grand in East Grand Forks was tough. But to beat East Grand Forks senior year is just incredible."

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With the game-winning puck in hand, Warroad captain Grant Slukynsky yells to the Warriors student section after Warroad blanked East Grand Forks Senior High 4-0 in the Minnesota Section 8A boys hockey championship Thursday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

After the final buzzer sounded, Slukynsky skated past the Warroad student section to celebrate.

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"It's everything and more than I thought it would be and hoped it would be," he said. "To win is just unbelievable and we can't wait to keep going."

Warroad improved to 26-2 on the season. East Grand Forks Senior High finished its season at 20-5-2 with three of those losses coming against Warroad.

"I didn't think we were very good, but I think a lot of the credit goes to Warroad," Senior High coach Tyler Palmiscno said. "It's been 10 years since they've been to St. Paul. I can tell they've been hungry all year and that was the best I've seen them play. We didn't generate anything. That's pretty impressive what they did. They earned it and they're built for success next week."

Senior High didn't have an answer for Warroad's top line all season. Slukynsky, Shaugabay and Anthony Foster combined for 11 goals and 24 points in three games.

Slukynsky and Shaugabay connected for Warroad's first three goals Thursday. Shaugabay scored twice in the second period to open up a 2-0 lead, then Slukynsky scored early in the third to put the game out of reach.

"We did a pretty good job not giving them much, but they don't need much," Palmiscno said. "They don't need 10 opportunities. They need two and they score one."

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Green Wave goaltender Austin Cooley deflects a Warroad shot in the first period of Thursday's Minnesota Section 8A championship at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

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Senior High, which averaged 37.7 shots on goal per game, was held to just 17 against the Warriors. The only other time the Green Wave were shut out this season was against Grand Forks Central in a game that was shortened to two periods because of a power outage.

Warroad will now await for its draw at state, which begins Wednesday in the home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild.

"It's going to be crazy," Slukynsky said. "It's everything I've hoped for and I'm just so excited."

WARROAD 4, EGF SENIOR HIGH 0

First period -- No scoring

Second period -- 1. WAR, Jayson Shaugabay (Grant Slukynsky) 9:04; 2. WAR, Shaugabay (Slukynsky) 12:04

Third period -- 3. WAR, Slukynsky (Shaugabay) 3:15; 4. WAR, Gage Wilmer 14:03 (en)

Goalie saves -- EGF: Austin Cooley 5-6-10 -- 21; WAR: Zach Foster 4-4-9 -- 17

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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