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True Grit

By Loren Nelson, 12/29/21, 3:00PM CST


Maple Grove's Josh Giuliani plays his hard-hitting role to perfection in win over Lakeville South

Maple Grove senior Josh Giuliani (19) scored a third-period goal Tuesday as the Crimson dealt Lakeville South its first loss of the season. Photo by Loren Nelson,

Dangle. Snipe. Celly.

Those three words look cute on a T-shirt, sure. And, yeah, they occur in sweet succession on the ice sometimes, too.

But when a couple of teams intent on making deep playoff runs - teams keenly aware of the importance of playing suffocating defense - collide, dangling is all but non-existent, snipes happen about as often as a lunar eclipse and cellys are unicorn-rare.

Hit. Hustle. Grind. The were the action words needed to win Tuesday’s showdown between Lakeville South, No. 3 in Class 2A in Legacy Hockey’s Power Rankings, and No. 6 Maple Grove. Not the sexy sort of verbs that appeal to consumers but exactly the traits coaches covet in their players.

Maple Grove senior Josh Giuliani is the epitome of grit guy. He loves to hit. He was born to grind. The crease area might as well be his office, for all the work he gets done there.

“He plays the game the right way,” Maple Grove coach Todd Bergland said after Giuliani scored a clutch third-period goal in the Crimson’s 3-0 victory over the previously unbeaten Cougars in a Tradition in the Park first-round matchup at the St. Louis Park Rec Center. “He plays hard, he plays physical. I just can't say enough good about him.”

There was nothing pretty about Giuliani’s goal early in the third period that put the Crimson ahead 2-0. He bowled over a Lakeville South player with a massive hit at center ice, forcing a turnover. Giuliani followed linemates Finn Brink and Landen Gunderson as they brought the puck into the Cougars’ zone. Giuliani parked himself at the top of the crease, then outmuscled a defender to shovel a rebound into an open net. 

The celebration was decidedly low-key. Giuliani threw his arms in the air — barely above shoulder height — then skated deliberately to the Maple Grove bench. Sure, he was happy. Exhausted, too. 

“I'm glad Josh got that goal because he has been out with mono for a long time and now he's he's finally starting to get healthy, and that's helped our team dramatically,” Bergland said. 

Guiliani, who sat out Maple Grove’s first four games, has two goals and four assists. He scored 12 goals for the Crimson last season and this fall was a key member of one of the Upper Midwest High School Elite League’s top forward lines, joining Benilde-St. Margaret’s Adam Marshall and Blake’s William Matzke on a dominant forward unit.

The 6-foot, 180-pound Giuliani is one of those rare players who relishes the bumping, jostling and other forms of body contact required to win puck battles and net-front skirmishes.

“I love it,” he said about his fondness for physical play. “I mean, that's the main part of my game. Without that, I wouldn't be the player who I am.

“You know, I just love to give energy to the boys and hopefully I can do that by making some hits out there.”

Long before Tuesday’s puck drop, Lakeville South coach Josh Storm figured it would be a defense-heavy, grind-it-out affair. The Cougars’ coach played the role of prophet when he told one of his assistants, “I feel like this game is going to be won in front of the net, either our net or their net.”

“It ended up working out that way,” Storm said about Giuliani’s goal that all but clinched the victory for the Crimson (6-2-1). 

Lakeville South (7-1-0) had won seven-straight games to start the season but hadn’t been tested with a playoff-like game so dependent on tight checking and gritty play.

“I think we needed a little bit of a wake-up call and reminder of what top-notch hockey is all about,” Storm said. “We were way too much on the perimeter. I don’t think we did a good enough job battling in front of the net.” 

Senior forward Josh Giuliani missed the season's first four games because of illness. Photo by Loren Nelson,

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