State Class A boys hockey: Luverne takes No. 1 Hermantown into OT
JON NOWACKI Forum News Service ST. PAUL -- After watching two heavily favored teams get dumped on a wild opening day of the Minnesota high school boys hockey tournament, Hermantown wasn't concerned with style points or victory margin Wednesday. T...
Forum News Service
ST. PAUL - After watching two heavily favored teams get dumped on a wild opening day of the Minnesota high school boys hockey tournament, Hermantown wasn’t concerned with style points or victory margin Wednesday.
The Hawks simply wanted to survive the Class A quarterfinal round, which No. 2-seeded Delano and No. 3 Mahtomedi couldn’t do against first-time tournament entrants Monticello-Annandale-Maple Lake and Northfield, respectively.
Even that proved to be a chore.
In perhaps the biggest shocker of the day, the Hawks needed overtime to dispatch Luverne from a bracket that was nearly overrun by Cinderellas.
Dylan Kolquist restored order 42 seconds into overtime when he converted Jesse Jacques’ dandy feed in front of the net to seal a 3-2 victory at Xcel Energy Center.
Late in the third period, Tyler Reisdorfer notched his second goal of the game to forge an improbable 2-2 tie.
For the top-seeded Hawks (27-1-1), who won their previous two tournament openers by a combined 19-3, disaster loomed. Hermantown coach Bruce Plante was shown on the Jumbotron after the third. His was an unmistakable look of disbelief.
“I was thinking about Mariucci (Arena),” he said of the venue that hosts consolation games.
Instead, the Hawks advanced to a 1 p.m. Friday semifinal against either East Grand Forks or St. Cloud Cathedral.
That spot almost belonged to unseeded Luverne (22-6-1) thanks to a brilliant performance by indefatigable senior goaltender Kaden Ericson, who made 49 saves. He was the story of the night, time after time keeping Hermantown at bay and allowing the Cardinals to hang around. Ericson was especially effective at limiting rebounds.
The Hawks, whose winning streak reached 27 games, didn’t solve Ericson until Tyler Watkins capitalized on some dirty work by Logan Judnick and Matt Valure early in the second period. Those two dug the puck out of the corner, and Judnick sent it out front, where Watkins fired from the left faceoff circle. Based on reputation, many at Xcel - certainly Hermantown’s red-, white- and blue-clad student section - expected the goals to start coming in bunches.
That never materialized.
“As the game went on and their goalie kept stoning us, then I think we got out of character,” Plante said when asked if the Hawks were pressing.
Less than a minute after Hermantown’s Ryan Sandelin refused to give up on the puck and made it 2-0 late in the second, the Cardinals halved the deficit when Reisdorfer tallied a power-play goal from the high slot off a Hawks turnover.
Luverne is in its second state tournament. In the program’s debut, the Cardinals were doubled up 6-3 by Hermantown in the 2014 quarterfinals. Wednesday, their defense stymied a high-powered attack that totaled 23 goals in three Section 7A playoff games. In front of Ericson, Luverne blocked 28 shots.
“To hold them to two goals in regulation and lose in heart-breaking fashion in overtime really speaks to the efforts of our guys,” Cardinals coach Phillip Paquette said. “They gave everything they had out there.”
Sporting the Hawks’ pink player-of-the-game helmet, Kolquist described his game-winner, in which he had all the time in the world to decide where to go with the puck. Upon receiving Jacques’ pass, Kolquist hesitated and got Ericson to commit before going around him.
“Jesse gave me a perfect pass to the back side,” Kolquist said. “There was nobody by me. I just had to put the puck in the net.”
He did, and a wild celebration that nobody could have predicted ensued.
Sandelin, who said Hermantown started to get frustrated at its inability to deliver the knockout blow, regrouped after Reisdorfer scored with 2:08 remaining in regulation.
“It was right back to work,” Sandelin said. “Let’s go get the next one.”
Sandelin, like everybody else who watched Ericson dazzle, tipped his cap to the senior goaltender.
“Hat’s off to their goalie because he played unreal,” Sandelin said. “He kept them in the game.”
Watching Delano and Mahtomedi fall in the first session Wednesday did little to calm the Hawks’ nerves as they embarked on their state title defense. Ahead of the tournament, it was widely expected that Delano and Hermantown would meet in Saturday’s final. Instead, the Tigers, who narrowly lost to the Hawks 4-3 in December, and their three Division I commits started the zaniness with a loss to MAML.
“I was sick to my stomach all afternoon,” Plante said.
In most years, the Class A quarters are a predictable warm-up act for the remainder of the week. Apparently, this isn’t a normal year. At the least, Wednesday wasn’t a normal opener.
“It was amazing to watch the (afternoon) session and see that anything is possible in the state tournament,” Paquette said.
First period - No scoring.
Second period - 1. H, Tyler Watkins (Logan Judnick, Matt Valure), 1:44; 2. H, Ryan Sandelin (Dylan Kolquist), 14:14; 3. L, Tyler Reisdorfer, 15:06 (pp).
Third period - 4. L, Reisdorfer, 14:52.
Overtime - 5. H, Kolquist (Jesse Jacques, Sandelin), 0:42.
Saves - Cade McEwen, H, 24; Kaden Ericson, L, 49.