This is the day everyone has been waiting for. It’s a day that has existed only in dreams for many of the kids taking to the ice in the title games Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. For a state that almost treats hockey as a religion, this is as close as you can come to a religious experience that involves violence and ice.
Hermantown advanced to the Class A title game after a dramatic, almost miraculous, victory over Mahtomedi. In the finals, the Hawks went up 1-0 in the first period while defending state champion Breck School tied the game in the second period. Heading into the final period, the score was tied at one apiece and Breck was getting handled in a way that was unfamiliar. A photographer in press row before the game responded when asked something about the game that “oh this final is Breck and the school that will get destroyed by Breck.” The private school from the cities had thoroughly dominated their opponents all season scoring 206 goals in 28 games while racking up a 26-2 record.
However, the Hawks were the ones dominating play in this game. Breck was able to keep the game even thanks to a great effort by goaltender John Russell who finished the game with 30 saves. With 1:40 to go in the game, Breck scored to go up 2-1 and the game ended that way. Hermantown players and fans were dejected after coming so close, but falling just short.
One of the cool things about this state tournament is the camaraderie between fans and teams. Warroad played Mahtomedi–the team Hermantown defeated in the semifinals–in the third place game and won in double overtime. Hermantown fans were there early and started cheering wildly for Warroad. I think part of it was due to the fact that after a Mahtomedi player scored to put his team up 6-4 against the Hawks, he slowly skated by the Hermantown student section with his finger up to a mouth in a gesture to be quiet, which served only to enrage the Hawks’ student section and solidify their support for Warroad in the third place game. During the third period of the finals, the entire Warroad hockey team was welcomed into the middle of the Hermantown student section. It was cool to watch Hermantown fans welcome these players from a town 256 miles away and join them as they both cheered against Breck in the finals.
I’m off to the NCAA wrestling tournament in Omaha, Nebraska so I will have some photos from that early next week along with my review of the best of the wursts at the Xcel Energy Center. Now here are some photos from those finals…