Deja vu all over again: More heartbreak for Hermantown in Class A title game

ST. PAUL -- Hermantown has been here before. A deflected game-winner in 2010, an overtime goal in 2011 -- neither going the Hawks' way and both causing end-of-the-season heartbreak. But Saturday's 5-4 loss to St. Thomas Academy in the Minnesota C...

State hockey
Hermantown center Travis Koepke (27) and Ryan Kero celebrate a goal during the second period of the Class A championship game on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Hannah Foslien for the News Tribune)

ST. PAUL -- Hermantown has been here before.

A deflected game-winner in 2010, an overtime goal in 2011 -- neither going the Hawks' way and both causing end-of-the-season heartbreak.

But Saturday's 5-4 loss to St. Thomas Academy in the Minnesota Class A high school boys hockey championship game may have set a new standard for heartache.

Tommy Novak's goal with 6.1 seconds remaining ended the Hawks' hopes of a monumental upset and allowed St. Thomas Academy to skate off with its third consecutive -- and final -- first-place Class A state tournament trophy before 6,894 fans at Xcel Energy Center. St. Thomas has opted to move up to Class AA?next season.

Novak, a sophomore forward, skated off the side boards after taking a pass from defenseman Wyatt Schmidt and ripped a slap shot off the underside of the crossbar for a power-play goal in the waning seconds to give the Cadets a 5-4 victory.


Hermantown (25-5-1) led 4-2 after two periods, but lost in the finals for a fourth consecutive year and third straight to St. Thomas (27-2-2).

"This is probably the most difficult loss I've had in my life," said Hawks coach Bruce Plante, winner of more than 400 games in his 24 years on the bench.

Following the final horn, a visibly upset Plante stormed after the head referee to protest a holding penalty called on Hermantown's Scott Wasbotten with 1:57 to play and an apparent holding infraction that was not called moments before Novak's game-winner.

"I didn't think we should have had a penalty on the one that was called, and the same exact thing happened on the other end and we didn't get the call," he said. "To get calls like that at the end of the game ... there's a lot of things I could say, but I'm not saying them. I don't want my (athletic director) to get mad."

Cadets co-coach Greg Vannelli said he didn't see the play clearly and couldn't make a judgment. He preferred to focus on his team's comeback amid an atmosphere that seemed as much anti-St. Thomas as it was pro-Hermantown.

"They had a target on their back all year long and to come through like this is really great," Vannelli said.

Between the second and third periods, the Cadets said, they talked about what had happened two years ago when they overcame a three-goal deficit to beat Hermantown.

"We all knew we could come back because we had it in us," said Matt Perry, who scored the Cadets' first three goals, including the one early in the third period that started the comeback. "I definitely felt after that first goal that we were going to win."


Perry knocked in a rebound while falling backward at 2:53 to cut the gap to 4-3. Henry Hart tied the game at 9:05 when he recovered a blocked shot and spun around to find the right corner of the net.

The holding penalty followed and the Cadets pressured the Hawks' goal with an extra attacker until Novak's game-winner. Just prior to that, however, Hermantown defenseman Jake Zeleznikar was grabbed and unable to clear the puck out of the zone.

"There was a loose puck and I was going for it and the guy had me in a headlock, and I couldn't chip it out of the zone," he said.

Second-period goals by third-line members Ryan Kero and Lane LeGarde and second-liner Wasbotten put Hermantown in position to win its second state title.

Wasbotten broke a 1-1 tie when he batted in a rebound of Joe Muehlbauer's shot from the point at 9:38, just 3 seconds after the end of a power play during which the Hawks kept control of the puck in the Cadets' zone the entire time.

Kero skated to the right edge of the crease and batted in Neal Pionk's backhand pass at 10:46 for a 3-1 lead. And, 31 seconds after the Cadets had halved the deficit on Perry's second goal, LeGarde responded when his shot bounced behind goalie David Zevnik and across the goal line amid a mad scramble of bodies.

"We got production from all three lines, and that doesn't happen very often," Zeleznikar said. "I felt we controlled the majority of the game."

Senior winger Chris Benson became the first player to score on St. Thomas during the playoffs when he skated behind the Cadets' net and stuffed his second attempt past Zevnik for a power-play goal at 15:54 of the first period. Zevnik didn't allow a goal for more than 300 minutes in the playoffs, during which the Cadets outscored opponents 42-0.


Benson, winner of this year's Herb Brooks Award, was distraught afterward.

"To be honest, it sucks," he said. "I've never played with a better group of 20 kids. Losing is tough. We wanted it, but we couldn't get a bounce today."

Despite the nature of the defeat, Plante said he was proud of his players' effort.

"We didn't play our best last year -- we were intimidated a little bit and gave into that. We did not do that this year," he said. "From the first drop of the puck, our kids played smart and physical and did everything they had to do to win the game."

  • Benson, Smith, Travis Koepke and Neal Pionk were named to the Class A all-tournament team. Other selections to the 12-player team: St. Thomas' Schmidt, Perry, Zevnik and Jack Dougherty; Breck's Matt Colford; East Grand Forks' Colton Poolman and Tommy Hajicek; and Rochester Lourdes' Alex Funk.
  • Hermantown and Duluth Marshall met in Wednesday's quarterfinals, but now those schools will have to get past each other at the section level after the Minnesota State High School League announced reclassifications Saturday. Hermantown moves from Section 5 to 7, joining standout teams such as Marshall, Duluth Denfeld and Hibbing-Chisholm.
  • Hermantown's welcome-home celebration is noon today at the high school. Hermantown 1-3-0--4

    St. Thomas Academy 1-1-3--5

    First period -- 1. STA, Matt Perry (Danny McManus, Gunnar Regan), 15:12; 2. H, Chris Benson (Bo Gronseth, Neal Pionk), 15:54 (pp).

    Second period -- 3. H, Scott Wasbotten (Zach Kramer, Joe Muehlbauer), 9:38; 4. H, Ryan Kero (Neal Pionk), 10:46; 5. STA, Perry (Henry Hart, Tony Bretzman), 15:07; 6. H, Lane LeGarde (Kero), 15:44.

    Third period -- 7. STA, Perry (Regan, McManus), 2:53; 8. STA, Hart (Austin Sattler, Jack Stang), 9:05; 9. STA, Tommy Novak (Wyatt Schmidt), 16:53.

    Saves -- Adam Smith, H, 15; David Zevnik, STA, 19.

    Att. -- 6,894.


    The Hilltoppers scored four goals in the first period, including one 10 seconds after the Eagles had pulled within one, and then held on to win the Class A fifth-place game at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

    Connor Flaherty and Michael Damberg each scored twice for Marshall (18-13), which converted two power-play chances and killed off three power-play opportunities before the Eagles (21-10) rallied late in the third period with a pair of extra-attacker advantages.

    Marshall goaltender Caden Flaherty stopped 36 shots but had to survive a flurry in the final minutes as Lourdes had a two-man advantage and pulled its goalie for another attacker. Ben Weir and Alex Funk scored, but the Eagles were unable to net the equalizer.

    Duluth Marshall 4-1-2--6

    Rochester Lourdes 2-0-4--5

    First period -- 1. DM, Connor Flaherty, 0:55; 2. RL, Jason Samuelson (Alex Funk), 3:27 (sh); 3. DM, Matt Klassen (Kyle Jones, Cam McClure), 4:04 (pp); 4. DM, Joe Daly (John McKenna, Lane Eliason), 7:13; 5. RL, McKay Carstens (Mason Carstens), 7:42; 6. DM, Michael Damberg (Lane Krenzen, Klassen), 7:52.

    Second period -- 7. DM, Connor Flaherty (Kris McKenzie, Luke Pavelich), 0:26 (pp).

    Third period -- 8. DM, Kane Carstens (Dakota Streit), 11:07; 9. DM, Damberg, 13:25; 10. RL, Ben Weir (Funk, Karl Krecke), 15:48 (pp); 11. RL, Funk (Krecke), 16:23 (pp).

    Saves -- Caden Flaherty, DM, 36; Jack Burkel, RL, 2; Andrew Ellingson, RL, 17.



    Senior defenseman Phil Beaulieu and senior forward Alex Toscano each scored two goals and added an assist as the second-seeded Greyhounds won a trophy for the fourth consecutive year by downing the Trojans in the Class AA third-place game.

    Jack Forbort had a goal and an assist and Ryan Lundgren totaled three assists for East (26-5), which won 18 of its last 19 games to add this third-place finish to a second (2011) and two consolation titles (2010 and 2012).

    Wayzata, which lost a 2-1 nail-biter to Hill-Murray in Friday's semifinals, finished 22-9 after allowing its most goals all season.

    Wayzata 0-1-2--3

    Duluth East 2-3-2--7

    First period -- 1. DE, Phil Beaulieu (Wyatt Irwin), 0:58; 2. DE, Alex Toscano (Jack Forbort, Beaulieu), 12:56.

    Second period -- 3. DE, Forbort (Toscano, Ryan Lundgren), 2:24; 4. DE, Alex Trapp (Nick Altmann, Jack Kolar), 4:01; 5. W, Jack Sorensen (Chad Olson, Akash Batra), 8:59; 6. DE, Beaulieu (Meirs Moore, Lundgren), 15:12.

    Third period -- 7. W, Batra (Chandler Lindstrand), 3:42; 8. DE, Altmann (Kolar, Brian Bunten), 5:14; 9. DE, Toscano (Lundgren), 11:54; 10. W, Kyle Olson (Jalen Wahl, Lindstrand), 12:46 (pp).

    Saves -- Aaron Dingmann, W, 11; Jens Vaughan Ahrens, W, 13; Dylan Parker, DE, 18.


    The third-seeded Hornets (25-6) earned the school's eighth state hockey title -- 11th, if you add in three titles won by Edina East -- with the victory over the top-seeded Pioneers (27-3-1).

    Hill-Murray scored first, but then Edina scored four unanswered goals to take a 4-1 lead late in the second period. Hill-Murray added one more goal in the second before the teams played a scoreless third period.

    Cullen Munson scored two goals for Edina. Josh French had both goals for Hill-Murray, which led in shots, 27-22.

    Edina defeated Duluth East in the Class AA semifinals on Friday to reach the championship game.


    Three Duluth East players made the Minnesota Class AA high school boys hockey all-tournament team, announced after Saturday night's championship game.

    Greyhound players Meirs Moore, Alex Toscano and Phil Beaulieu made the team. Other selections included Moorhead's Jacob Dittmer; Hill-Murray's John Dugas, Zach LaVelle, Sam Becker and Mitch Slattery; and Edina's Parker Reno, Andy Jordahl, Connor Hurley and Dylan Malmquist.

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