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As state tournaments go, the Northern Minnesota contingent had some good news and some not-so-good news, as Hermantown’s splendid bid for the Class A championship romped to a 7-1 opening victory over Monticello behind Blake Biondi’s hat trick, then a rugged 6-2 semifinal showdown triumph over favored and defending A champion St. Cloud Cathedral in the semifinals.
But even though the Hawks played a near-flawless game in the final, Mahtomedi completed an incredible tournament by upsetting Hermantown 3-2 in overtime, despite being outshot 42-12 — setting an all-time tournament record for the fewest shots on goal by any team winning any championship.
The Hawks and goaltender Jacob Backstrom were stunned when it ended, although they played a superb game and gave it everything they had. It was a memorable moment one day later when Biondi, who wound up with 47 goals, m 48 assists for 95 points, was named Mr. Hockey, and immediately praised his teammates for any accolade coming his way.
Biondi added his 47th goal of the season in that semifinal battle against Cathedral, a team that had battled from a 5-1 deficit to a 5-5 tie at Hermantown in midseason. The Crusaders decided to abandon their obvious ability to skate and shoot with the Hawks in that game, and, in fact, they were so intent on hammering Biondi at every chance they lost their focus completely.
The hammering almost worked, as Cathedral came from a 3-0 deficit to cut it to 3-2, before Joey Pierce, Ethan Lund and Zach Kilen finished off the 6-2 romp. That left the Hawks on a high for the championship game, where they would face a Mahtomedi outfit that had beaten Delano in the first round and upset No. 1 seed Warroad in the semifinals.
Hermantown had whipped Mahtomedi 9-2 during the season, but Zephyrs coach Jeff Poeschl decided on an entirely different game plan for their first trip ever to the state finals. He may not have watched St. Cloud Cathedral’s failed effort at beating up Biondi — which included a bench-emptying attack at the end of the first period when the Crusaders decided to mob Biondi along the boards rather than go congratulate their goaltender. But Poeschl also knew what happened when his Zephyrs tried to trade rushes with the speedy and highly skilled Hawks.
So it was old-time hockey, and the feisty Mahtomedi outfit delivered their hits but also took advantage of Hermantown penalties to start the first and second periods with power-play goals for a 2-0 lead. J.D. Metz scored one goal and set up the second, and later made the key pass to send Colin HJagstrom in with the game-winning goal in overtime.
Drew Sams got Hermantown on the board when his shot deflected off Metz and past goaltender Ben Dardis, who was nothing short of spectacular, making 40 saves in the game. The equalizer took some doing.
Hermantown outshot Mahtomedi 23-2 in the third period, but Dardis was always in the way. When it got to the final minute, Hermantown coach Pat Andrews pulled Backstrom for a sixth attacker to join his top line and first-unit defense. The Hawks slammed repeated shots at Dardis through that final minute, and finally the puck squirted out to the right side and junior center Aaron Pionk took a whack at it and the goal light came on. The clock showed 21.2 and seconds remaining, but the goal was declared good after a lengthy delay because Kilen and Ethan Lund had both pursued the puck into the crease.
But after 2:44 of the 8-minute overtime, Colin Hagstrom hustled up the slot and converted a pass from Metz to put the puck past Backstrom and give Mahtomedi its first state champiomnship, with a 23-8 record, while Hermantown wound up 23-4-4, suffering its first loss to a Class A school.
The pretournament conjecture had St. Cloud Cathedral facing Warroad for the title, but they played for third place, instead, with Cathedral winning 6-4, while Delano beat Monticello 2-1 in overtime for the consolation title.
And in AA, top-seeded Andover, the 7AA champion, led twice but lost 3-2 to St. Thomas Academy in the quarterfinals. while Blake beat Maple Grove 7-5 in a wild scoring fest. Eden Prairie blanked Lakeville South 4-0, and then Eden Prairie whipped Blake 4-1, and Hill-Murray held off St. Thomas Academy 3-2 in a battle of private school powers making their return to prominence.
The consolation round found Blake recovering to beat St. Thomas Academy 4-0 for third place, while Andover came back to beat Moorhead 4-1, and then claimed the consolation trophy with a 4-1 victory over Maple Grove. All of that set up the Saturday night AA final, where Hill-Murray had one remaining surprise, playing a rock-solid defensive game with a quick-passing, precision offense that took down Eden Prairie 4-1 for the AA title.