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By Jason Feldman

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

ST. PAUL — After everything the Rochester Century hockey team has been through this season, a loss here Thursday wasn’t the most stinging thing that could happen to it.

Certainly, the Panthers would have preferred to be on the other side of the 5-0 loss they suffered to Blaine at the Xcel Energy Center. But considering Century was 6-10-0 at one point this season, and considering the Panthers played one game without eight regular varsity players for various reasons, being at the state tournament isn’t such a bad way to cap the season.

"It’s a credit to the boys that we’re here," Century coach Bruce Frutiger said. "We had a lot of disruptions, whether you want to call it a rocky road or whatever … "Sometimes in life you end up on a rocky road by chance, sometimes by choice. For us it was both. It’s a credit to the team that they kept with it, battled back and made it here."

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Century captain Bill Grinde said it only took him a few shifts to get the nerves out; while junior forward Jordan Martini said the game was into the second period before his butterflies vanished. By that time, Blaine led 2-0, but Frutiger thought Blaine’s defense was more damaging to Century than Blaine’s offense.

"The boys were ready," Frutiger said. "Both teams didn’t come out flying.

It took time to get things in order, but when you can’t get that first one by their goalie, all of a sudden the legs get a little more tired. We couldn’t get any momentum or excitement going."

Century has played a difficult regular-season schedule in recent years to prepare themselves for a possible state tournament berth. Blaine was the fifth state-ranked team the Panthers faced this season.

"They moved the puck well and they’re very quick," Martini said of the Bengals. "They’re definitely one of the top teams we’ve played this season."

The Panthers (15-12-2) had less than 24 hours to regroup and prepare for today’s 10 a.m. consolation semifinal game against Hill-Murray at Mariucci Arena. Century defeated Hill-Murray, 6-5 in overtime, in the state Class AA quarterfinals two seasons ago. The winner of this morning’s game will play at noon on Saturday at Mariucci Arena for fifth place.

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