ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The usual suspects are back at the boys state hockey tournament. Teams like Breck, Benilde St. Margaret’s and St. Thomas Academy are at it again.

But there’s a new team making an unlikely appearance. The Marshall Tigers qualified for state this year for the first time ever for boys hockey.

Marshall is about three hours southwest of St. Paul. The athletic director thinks more than 200 students and fans showed up for Wednesday morning’s first-round game against Breck.

The game didn’t go so well, but you never would have known it if you sat in Marshall’s section.

The Marshall Tigers are known for stand-out volleyball and basketball teams. But today, Marshall became a city of hockey and against Breck, the Tigers took on the role of underdogs.

“We’ve always hoped for it, but to expect this? You really can’t. But it’s awesome that we’re here,” said Alex Pauling. “It’s making history at our school so it’s pretty sweet.”

It took 15 years and an overtime win over Hutchinson last week to get here. Kari Buysse’s son Alex scored the winning goal in that game. And now she’s watching her son fulfill a dream.

“It’s really the talk of the town right now,” she said. “There are a lot of fans here, people that took work off. Kids that took school off. We are just really proud of our program.”

It certainly shows. Breck had out-shot Marshall 30 to 10 through two periods and led 4 to 1. But the sea of black and orange cheered every time the Marshall goalie made a save. And a casual fan passing by might have thought the Tigers had won the game when they scored their only goal.

Marshall lost 6-1. But when it came to fan support, they outscored everyone.

“I would guess we are missing 100 or so kids from the high school today so it’s probably a little thin in the halls,” said Bruce Remme, athletic director.

Marshall has a chance to win the consolation bracket.

Quick fact: The other seven schools in the Class A tournament have combined for nine state championships and 44 total appearances.

This is appearance No. 1 of hopefully many more for Marshall.

Hard to find teams to play because of their location.

John Lauritsen