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Class 1A State Hockey: Flyers squeak past Delano

Little Falls plays Delano in the Class 1A state quarterfinals Tuesday, March 30

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Little Falls players celebrate a first period goal during the Class A state quarterfinal game Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

ST. PAUL — For the second consecutive game, George Moore is the hero.

Coming off his game-winning overtime goal in Section 6-1A finals, Moore scored the game-winner in the fourth-seeded Little Falls Flyers 2-1 win over fifth-seeded Delano in the Class 1A state quarterfinals Tuesday, March 30.

Moore’s goal is his third of the season and came with a little under 10 minutes left.

“It’s fun to see him score some goals,” Flyers head coach Tony Couture said. “Everyone contributes and George just has the hot hand right now. It wasn’t a snipe like the goal against Fergus Falls, but he got it on net and it went in.”

Flyers’ goaltender Dane Couture notched 33 saves as the Flyers were outshot 34-16 but still moved on.

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“I just think he was on,” Tony Couture said. “When goalies are in that zone, pucks look like beach balls and he was in good positioning and frustrated them all night. He’s had three games in the zone at the end of the year.”

Dane Couture said he told himself before the game not to get too starstruck under the Xcel Energy Center lights.

“I thought I was going to be a little shaky after warmups,” he said. “I just told myself it was just another game and played my heart out.”

Little Falls will play Dodge County in the semifinals Thursday, April 2.

Dodge County knocked off top-seeded Hermantown who was playing with their junior varsity because of COVID-19 protocols.

The Flyers played Dodge County earlier on March 5 and fell 3-2. That game was the second game back for Little Falls after a quarantine.

“That really wasn’t fair for us,” Dane Couture said. “I think if we go out there and play our best game we can take them and live another day.”

Dodge County’s best player, Brody Lamb, tallied six goals in the quarterfinals against Hermantown.

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“That’s a game where we just battled hard and lost,” Tony Couture said of the March 5 game. “(Lamb) just ate us up and they are a great team which they proved tonight.”

The Flyers took advantage of two power plays in the first period. After not getting a shot off on the first one, Joe Marjerle scored off assists from Gunnar Gustafson and Matt Filippi on the second power play to make it 1-0.

Little Falls lead after the first period despite being outshot 11-3. Dane Couture made a few diving saves to keep the Tigers scoreless in the opening period.

“In that first period, I thought we played well,” Tony Couture said. “A lot of things went well in that first period to keep us going.”

Dane Couture let one slip by late in the second period to tie the game. Delano’s Will Brown went top shelf to score with 2:22 left in the period as the Tigers outshot the Flyers 11-5 in the second.

“We thought this was a winnable game for us,” Dane Couture said. “We executed well and that’s why we won the game.”

Little Falls has allowed one goal or fewer in the four games since section playoffs started March 19.

“It shows that we can hang around with the best teams in the state,” Dane Couture said. “All the extra drills in practice we did stood out and we can finish.”

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Delano 0 1 0 — 1
Little Falls 1 0 1 — 2

First period: LF-Joe Marjerle (Gunnar Gustafson, Matt Filippi) PPG 8:00
Second period: D-Will Brown (Jack Keranen) 14:38
Third period: LF-George Moore (Gunnar Gusfatson) 7:04
Shots on goal: LF 3-5-8 16, D 11-11-12 34
Goalies: LF-Dane Couture (33 saves); D-Thomas Huotari (14 saves)

Little Falls 2, Delano 1

Key: Clutch goal-scoring and good goaltending advance the Flyers to the semifinals

Overall: LF 14-4-1, D 14-7-1

Next: Little Falls plays Dodge County 1 p.m. Friday, April 2, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

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