After winning a section title last week, the Mankato East/Loyola boys' hockey team is heading back to the state tournament for the first time since 2006.
"06, what 12 years ago, that's been a while, the program has been down for a few years, but it feels good to get it back on top here in Mankato and being a team that people have to look out for," said Garrett Rabenhorst, Cougars senior forward.
"It's unbelievable, it's been a dream of mine for a long time, to have it happen senior year, it's really special," said Jake Anderson, Cougars senior defenseman.
"Even in the offseason, everyone talked about how our section would be really open, and we became a very tight group of guys, we put in our minds that that was our end goal, and just reminded ourselves of that throughout the year," added Anderson.
The dream season continues for Mankato East/Loyola after making the most of an opportunity at Sections where the Cougars outscored opponents 11–2.
"When it came down to sections, and we were the two seed, everyone was really pumped for it, and we knew that it was time for us to turn it up a notch. We were able to do that, come back and win," said Jack Cusey, Cougars senior goaltender.
The Cougars play some of their best hockey in the third period with a strong supporting cast from top to bottom.
"We've been relying on a lot of kids. I think when you look at a lot of teams down here, we probably have the most depth in scoring. We've had first line, second line, and third line kids all scoring. We have defensemen score a lot of goals, and that helps us keep a lot of guys fresh so that we can get to the end," said Adam Fries, Cougars head coach.
Now, the focus shifts toward Wednesday with hopes of making a memorable run at state to close out the season for all those fans bleeding black and gold.
"The kids have been getting a lot of great congratulations and well wishes from the whole town, outside of town, it's been awesome," said Fries.
"It's been a fun time, it's kind of weird, you see all these young kids looking up to you now, it takes a while to get used to but it's cool to be up here in our community now," said Rabenhorst.
Mankato East Loyola hits the ice in the Class A state quarterfinals Wednesday against Mahtomedi we'll more from the Cougars Tuesday night on KEYC News 12.