State boys hockey: Hermantown comes up short in Class A title gameFollowing Friday’s narrow semifinal win over Thief River Falls, coach Bruce Plante suggested his undefeated Hermantown team would be an underdog to St. Thomas Academy in the Class A high school boys hockey championship game.
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune
ST. PAUL — Following Friday’s narrow semifinal win over Thief River Falls, coach Bruce Plante suggested his undefeated Hermantown team would be an underdog to St. Thomas Academy in the Class A high school boys hockey championship game.
Plante called the Cadets the top team in the class and said the Hawks would have to be at their best to avenge last season’s overtime loss in the title game.
But after the Cadets rolled to a 5-1 victory Saturday before 9,157 fans at Xcel Energy Center, it was clear that even Hermantown’s best might not have been enough to deny St. Thomas its fourth title in seven years.
“I don’t think there was a whole lot we could do differently,” Plante said. “We tried our best to get the puck to the net, but we had a hard time because they were so fast and had a great (defense).”
That defense allowed one goal in three state tournament games — Jared Kolquist’s ultimately harmless slap shot late in the second period — and posted nine shutouts in their final 14 games. Junior goaltender David Zevnik made 20 saves for the Mendota Heights-based school.
“Goaltenders make coaches look like geniuses,” Cadets co-coach Greg Vanelli said. “Something began to click in him in mid-January, and he allowed one or fewer (goals) a game for the last 14 games. It’s a coach’s dream to coach in a game where you know you’re only going to give up one goal.”
Alex Johnson, a second-line winger, had two goals and two assists as St. Thomas (26-5) denied the top-ranked Hawks (30-1) their second first-place trophy, a record 31st victory and a chance to be the first unbeaten, untied team in either class in the past 15 years. Hermantown’s 29-0-2 title team in 2007 was the last to go through a season undefeated.
Though the program is 8-0 in quarterfinal and semifinal rounds the past four tournaments, the Hawks have lost the last three title games — all to private schools.
“It’s not how we drew it up all three years, but most guys don’t get to play here,” senior center Jared Thomas said. “I’ve been here three times in three seasons so I look at that as a positive. But being second three years in a row isn’t what I wanted; I wanted to be a state champion. The last three years we’ve been the public school state champions.”
Third-line center Matt Perry scored a goal that needed video review to confirm it went in off his stick and not his skate, and then he assisted on Johnson’s sweeping wrist shot to give the Cadets a two-goal lead in the opening 6:42 of the first period. That’s approximately the same amount of time Hermantown needed to take a 3-0 lead on St. Thomas in last year’s championship game before the Cadets rallied to win 5-4 in overtime.
“We had a hard time with matchups,” Plante said. “They have three first lines and we have one first line. When we have to put our (second and third lines) out there, they’re up against first lines and our kids don’t see that very often. We can’t play Thomas’ line vs. everybody.”
Johnson added his second goal of the game and Peter Krieger had his second of the tournament 11 seconds apart in the second period to make it 4-0. Johnson took a cross-ice pass from Sattler and buried his shot past goalie Matt Mensinger for a power-play goal at 7:26, then Krieger picked up his own rebound that had been blocked by the Hermantown defense and found the upper-left corner of the net at 7:37.
“In championship games, you can’t afford to give up two quick goals,” Kolquist said. “That obviously did not help us.”
The back-to-back goals increased the Cadets’ confidence level, Johnson said.
“After being down 3-0 last year, we knew we were in a good place,” said the junior forward, who finished the season with 22 goals.
Austin Sattler then put the game away when he one-timed a pass from Johnson past Mensinger at 10:08. Kolquist scored Hermantown’s lone goal when he ripped a shot from the left faceoff circle, ending Zevnik’s tournament scoreless streak at 130 minutes and 34 seconds.
r Kolquist, Thomas and Jake Zeleznikar were named to the Class A All-Tournament team. Joining them were Zevnik, Eric Schurhamer, Andrew Commers and Tom Novak from St. Thomas; Alex Funk of Rochester Lourdes; Joey Hanowski of Little Falls; Grant Opperman and Jack Kenney of Breck; and Chris Forney of Thief River Falls.
r A welcome home celebration for Hermantown is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today at the high school.
St. Thomas Academy: 2-3-0—5
First period — 1. STA, Matt Perry (Austin Sattler, Alex Johnson), 2:53; 2. STA, Johnson (Perry, Andrew Commers), 6:42.
Second period — 3. STA, Johnson (Sattler, Wyatt Schmidt), 7:26 (pp); 4. STA, Peter Krieger (Tom Novak), 7:37; 5. STA, Sattler (Johnson, Perry), 10:08; 6. H, Jared Kolquist (Jared Thomas, Jake Zeleznikar), 11:34.
Third period — No scoring.
Saves — David Zevnik, STA, 9-9-2—20; Matt Mensinger, H, 5-14-6—25.