ST. PAUL - Grant Clafton's subdued reaction - a simple upward thrust of his right arm and a knowing smile - belied the pandemonium playing out around him at Xcel Energy Center.
In the stands, folks from Coleraine and Taconite, Bovey and Nashwauk, were going crazy. On the ice, Ben Troumbly, having cemented his superstar status first at the end of regulation, then in overtime, was leaping backwards into the glass before being mobbed by his Greenway teammates.
The Raiders, on the brink of being dumped into today's third-place game only minutes earlier, were celebrating their back-from-the-dead 3-2 win over top-seeded Mahtomedi in a Class A state tournament semifinal played before an afternoon-session crowd of 11,376.
And Troumbly was the jolliest green giant of them all.
Just 23 seconds into OT, the junior followed his own rebound on a shot from the left faceoff circle, retrieved the puck to the right of Zephyrs goalie Ben Dardis, then skated a stride out front and snapped the game-winner into an open net.
A sheepish Troumbly couldn't explain his heroics.
"I wasn't even thinking at the time, I guess," he said.
Clafton, the Greenway coach who's been a picture of steely confidence during this improbable playoff run, had a good feeling when he saw the puck on Troumbly's stick.
"It looks like it's easy and it's a wide-open net," Clafton stated. "I thought it was an outstanding play by him, and you almost knew it was gonna go in when he had it."
The freshman Dardis said he simply lost track of the puck.
"And the next thing you know it's in the back of the net," the goalie said.
Troumbly, a St. Cloud State commit who has three goals this week and 24 on the season, made bonus hockey possible with a blast at 15:14 of the third period that turned what had the makings of an awful power play into a season-saver.
"We knew it was do or die," Troumbly said. "Everything was going to the net and just hoping one went in."
Troumbly and high-scoring linemate Donte Lawson get most of the pub for these fourth-seeded Raiders (17-13), who were 6-13 before reeling off an 11-game winning streak that has them in this afternoon's title game against No. 2 St. Cloud Cathedral. Friday, though, it was less-heralded guys like Christian Miller, Cameron Lantz and goalie Logan Wright that kept Mahtomedi (22-7-1) off the scoreboard until more than seven minutes into the third.
In fact, it was Lantz that got Greenway going on its first goal. The undersized defenseman doggedly worked the puck loose from the corner in the Raiders' zone, then pushed it ahead to Lawson, who promptly gave it to Troumbly. Lawson received a return drop pass, glided toward the slot and fired a well-placed wrist shot to break a scoreless tie at 12:48 of the second period.
Lawson has scored 16 times over the past nine games. He admits he likes "playing on the big stage." Especially with Troumbly.
"The chemistry between us has been going on forever," he said.
Wright finished with 35 saves, including a pair of point-blank one-timers in the opening period that exemplified Clafton's description of his club as "calm, cool and collected."
The Raiders preserved the Northland's streak of having at least one entrant still alive on Championship Saturday, which has happened every year since 2009. Greenway, the smallest school in the Class A bracket, did so by ousting the largest school.
While Greenway has no shortage of high-end skill, what the Raiders lack is depth. Clafton talked about this group competing in a bantam game a few years ago with just seven players. Not seven skaters - players. They just find a way. Like they did Friday.
Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl expected a dog fight.
But after Nikolai Dulak pulled the trigger on a top-shelf tally 7:22 into the third, and Kory Pilarski followed two minutes later by converting a nifty centering pass from Joe Paradise, the coach thought his Zephyrs had weathered the storm.
The Raiders proved him wrong.
"If you have a team that knocked off Hermantown (in the Section 7A final), you know they're going to be dangerous," Poeschl said. "They're a very good team."
And one, Clafton said, that's doing its best to make the Iron Range proud.
"We're not just playing for Coleraine and the Greenway area," Clafton said. "We're representing Virginia, Eveleth, International Falls, Hibbing and those schools. It certainly means they are playing for more than just each other.
"It's much bigger than that."
First period - No scoring.
Second period - 1. G, Donte Lawson (Ben Troumbly, Cameron Lantz), 12:48.
Third period - 2. M, Nikolai Dulak (JD Metz, Colin Hagstrom), 7:22; 3. M, Kory Pilarski (Joe Paradise, Wyatt Begley), 9:34; 4. G, Troumbly (Lantz, Lawson), 15:14 (pp).
Overtime - 5. G, Troumbly (Lawson), 0:23.
Saves - Logan Wright, G, 35; Ben Dardis, M, 26.
Duluth East 3, Moorhead 2
The Greyhounds scored two power-play goals in the second period to take the lead and Jonathan Jones scored the game-winner 6:34 into the third period as Duluth East earned a trip to the fifth-place game with a consolation semifinal victory over the Spuds at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
East (19-7-2) will face Lakeville South (15-13-1), a 5-3 winner over White Bear Lake, in today's 11 a.m. fifth-place game at Mariucci.
Nolan Westra gave Moorhead (21-8-1) the lead just 2:14 into the contest before Charlie Erickson and Ryder Donovan connected on power plays 75 seconds apart in the second.
Jones made it 3-1 with his goal before the Spuds halved the deficit on a Max Dronen goal at 9:51.
Greyhounds goalie Lukan Hanson made 22 saves.
Duluth East 0-2-1-3
First period - 1. M, Nolan Westra (Maccoy Gregoire, Henkemeyer-Howe), 2:14.
Second period - 2. DE, Charlie Erickson (Jacob Jeanette, Carson Cochrane), 14:23 (pp); 3. DE, Ryder Donovan (Frederick Paine, Ricky Lyle Jr.), 15:38 (pp).
Third period - 4. DE, Jonathan Jones (Logan Anderson, Cochrane), 6:34; 5. M, Max Dronen (Kai Holm, Gavin Fullmer), 9:51.
Saves - Hudson Hodges, M, 20; Lukan Hanson, DE, 22.
CLASS A STATE TOURNAMENT
At Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
TV: WDIO Ch. 10
• St. Cloud Cathedral (26-4) vs. Greenway (17-13), noon