ST. PAUL — Duluth East entered its Class AA high school boys hockey quarterfinal Thursday with a decided advantage in state tournament experience.
That won't be the case in today's semifinal.
Senior forward Garrett Worth scored three goals and senior goaltender Parker Kleive posted a 28-save shutout in the Greyhounds' 5-0 victory over tournament debutante St. Michael-Albertville on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
Third-seeded Duluth East (24-2-3), which is in its 23rd state tournament, faces 27-time entrant Edina (27-2) at 6 p.m. today for a berth in the final. It's the fourth time in eight years the teams have met in the semifinals. Edina routed Lakeville North 7-1 in the first quarterfinal.
"It's going to be an exciting game," Worth said. "It's Edina vs. East at Xcel, nothing better than that. It's the cake from the north and the cake from the south."
Worth turned a nip-and-tuck quarterfinal into a rout by netting his 43rd, 44th and 45th goals of the season to move into a tie for the state lead with Luverne's Kasyn Kruse.
"He's got great teammates and he finishes a lot of stuff that those teammates create for him," East coach Mike Randolph said. "He will score at any level. He has a gift that not all players have."
When asked the last time an East player had scored that many goals, Randolph said mid-90s sensation Dave Spehar, who scored three hat tricks in three state tournament games in 1995, came to mind.
"I'd put him right there with David Spehar," Randolph said.
After a first period where the Knights (23-6) had just as many scoring opportunities, Worth beat goaltender Justin Damon with 2:53 remaining to break the scoreless deadlock. He then put home a rebound while standing unchecked at the left post 2:22 into the second period for a 2-0 advantage.
"He's got some speed and uses his body really well," Knights defenseman Garrett Sandberg said. "His line, the WMD line (for Worth-Mageau-Donovan), passes the puck around a lot and it's hard to defend. When three of them come down the ice against two of our defensemen, they move the puck around tic-tac-toe and find the net."
Senior Ian Mageau, who had a goal and two assists, says the chemistry between himself, Worth and Ryder Donovan is behind the success.
"We're best buds, we mess around at school. If we're not at the rink, we're together somewhere else," he said. "We don't care who gets (the goal), we just want to get the puck in the net."
Sophomore forward Logan Anderson, the overtime hero of the Section 7AA championship win over Andover, scored after a blueline-to-blueline pass from defenseman Carson Cochrane at 12:43 of the second period.
Worth then passed the puck from behind the net off the right post straight to Mageau, who put away his 18th goal of the season.
Worth finished off the four-goal period and his hat trick by deflecting in a shot from the point off his skate at 14:28, giving East three goals in a 1:45 span.
"He's always around the puck and is relentless, and when you are a goal scorer you get a little puck luck, too," Knights coach Jerremiah Johnson said.
For Kleive, who rarely has been tested as many times as he was Thursday, he's glad he doesn't need to worry about his team scoring goals.
"It keeps my confidence through the roof," said Kleive, who saved three shots in a flurry when the game was still 2-0 in the second period. "When they bury a couple, it keeps me standing tall."
That's what the 5-foot-11 goalie who is 17-1-2 on the season will need to do against the Hornets, whom East has defeated in two of the three previous semifinals in recent years.
It's a challenge Randolph wants his team to savor.
"I told these guys if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best," said Randolph, who guided East to championships in 1995 and '98 but has endured a 20-year title drought since. "And they're the best."
After seeing East stop his team's 12-game winning streak, Johnson wasn't about to pick against the Greyhounds.
"They are going to give Edina everything they can handle," he said.
St. Michael-Albertville 0-0-0—0
Duluth East 1-4-0—5
First period — 1. DE, Garrett Worth (Frederick Hunter Paine), 14:07.
Second period — 2. DE, Worth (Ryder Donovan, Ian Mageau), 2:22; 3. DE, Logan Anderson (Carson Cochran, Will Fisher), 12:43; 4. DE, Ian Mageau (Worth, Donovan), 13:53; 5. DE, Worth (Cochran, Mageau), 14:28.
Third period — No scoring.
Saves — Justin Damon, STMA, 29; Parker Kleive, DE, 28.