The gold medals, the championship trophy, the triumphant team photo with index fingers raised? They were all yet to come for the Hermantown Hawks on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.
The opening phase of the Hawks’ long-awaited championship celebration took place directly behind the Hermantown bench. The Hawks held a 5-0 lead over Breck and a small band of elementary-age boys swung into concerted action as the final 30 seconds counted down.
“30! 29! 28!” The kids, dressed in Hermantown blue and gold, waving signs, kept counting. “27! 26! 25!”
There was a stoppage at 13 seconds, giving the countdown team time to catch their breath. During those final 13 ticks, everyone on the Hermantown bench did what you would expect. They went nuts. After losing in six consecutive state championship games, they had every right to.
The horn blew, the players on the bench flew over the boards and everyone piled on goaltender Luke Olson, who pitched a shutout against a talented Breck team that won its two previous state tournament games by a combined score of 12-0.
And then there was Bruce Plante. He’s the face of Hermantown hockey, and for six years running his face had been a little droopy when the tournament ended.
His assistant coaches surrounded him on the bench in a long embrace that said everything.
Finally. We won it.
Plante walked onto the ice and his players hugged him. During the awards ceremony, a gold medal was hung around his neck and he stuck out his tongue and grinned as the Hawks fan cheered for him. As the team gathered for a photo, Bruce used a cell phone to snap a few shots before joining the group.
“It’s wonderful,” he said afterwards. “Probably one of the greatest moments of my hockey life, to tell you the truth.”
People sometimes forget that Plante led Hermantown to the 1A state title in 2007. But everybody seems to remember that the Hawks lost championship games in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Yes, the Hawks had five goals against the brick Breck wall (three in the first period). But not allowing the Mustangs to score was maybe the biggest surprise of the day.
Olson seemed almost as surprised as anybody else.
“Our guys were blocking every shot possible,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Defenseman Wyatt Aamodt, who assisted on goals by Cole Koepke and James Lindberg, said of Olson, “It was huge for us knowing we could count on him back there.”
Plante said he sensed something was different this time, well before game time. He knew the losing streak motivated them.
“They weren’t even nervous. They were going to get it. They were so determined. I could see it in their faces, I could see it in their eyes, I could see it in the locker room. … There was no fear at all. I just love how they presented themselves in this game.”
The Hawks went right to work, with goals by Koepke, Jesse Jacques and Lindberg making it a 3-0 game after one period. During Hermantown's six-year title-game streak, they had led 3-0 in the first period only once; they led St. Thomas Academy 3-0 at that point in 2011 and lost 5-4 in overtime.
History went out the window when Logan Judnick scored for a 4-0 lead at 7:03 of the third period. That was the first time in seven straight state title games that Hermantown held a 4-0 lead. The rewriting of the history book was complete when Ryan Sandelin scored at 14:50.
Breck had 23 shots on goal to 18 for the Hawks. The Mustangs went zero-for-three on the power play while Hermantown only had one power play.
“We thought there would be some chinks in the (Hermantown) armor. And I think every team has that,” said Breck coach Les Larson. “We just couldn’t capitalize. That doesn’t happen to us very often. … They were just the better team today.”
Plante said he had been receiving texts and emails from lots of former players, and not just those who were part of the last six teams.
“Guys who played 20, 25 years ago have been texting me,” he said. “They’re still Hermantown at heart.
“It’s nice to get it behind us.”
CLASS 2A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Wayzata 5, Eden Prairie 3/ The third-seeded Trojans scored four unanswered goals, including the clincher by Logan Lindstrand with 11:25 remaining. After top-seeded Eden Prairie built a 3-1 lead in the second period on goals by Michael Graham and Jarod Blackowiak, the Trojans rallied. Billy Duma scored a short-handed goal late in the period and Matt Nelson added another with 1:10 left in the second. Wayzata opened the scoring on a goal by Jackson Carlson early in the first period. Five minutes later, the Eagles answered on a goal by Casey Mittelstadt.
Class 1A/ Brendan Bushy, Ethan Johnson, Thief River Falls; Chase Ellingson, Justin Paulson, Linden Olness, William Blake, Breck; Cole Koepke, Eric Gotz, Jesse Jacques, Luke Olson, Ryan Sandelin, Wyatt Aamodt, Hermantown.
Class 2A/ Class 2A/ Matt Fitzgerald, Nick Leitner, Alex Pollock, Bemidji; Alex Adams, Micah Miller, Grand Rapids; Jackson Cates, Stillwater; Casey Mittelstadt, Michael Graham, Nicky Leivermann, Eden Prairie; Alex Schilling, Grant Anderson, Hank Sorensen, Wayzata.
Class 1A/ Thief River Falls 4, St. Paul Academy 1
Class 2A/ Grand Rapids 3, Stillwater 2
Class 1A/ St. Cloud Cathedral 4, Mankato West 2
Class 2A/ Bemidji 4, Farmington 1
CONGRATS TO BOYS STATE SWIM/DIVE CHAMPS
Class 1A/ St. Thomas Academy won the state title, followed by Breck/Blake and Simley in the top three. St. Thomas Academy's Warren Sexson set meet records in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle and was a member of the Cadets' record-setting 400 freestyle relay team. Red Wing's Hunter Connelly set a meet record in the 100 backstroke.
2A/ Eden Prairie won the team title, followed by Minnetonka, Eagan and Prior Lake. Eden Prairie set a record in the 200 medley relay, as did the Eagles’ Joshua Withers (100 butterfly) and Griffin Back (100 freestyle). Minnetonka’s Corey Lau set a record in the 100 breaststroke.
BOYS STATE BASKETBALL IS NEXT
The boys state basketball tournament will be held Wednesday through Saturday at Target Center and Williams Arena. The seeds and pairings in three classes were set Saturday; Class 1A seeds and pairings will be finalized Sunday (because one Class 1A section title game was played Saturday).
Here’s what we know…
#1 seed Osseo vs. Eden Prairie
#4 seed Maple Grove vs. #5 seed Lakeville North
#2 seed Hopkins vs. North St. Paul
#3 seed Apple Valley vs. Blaine
#1 seed DeLaSalle vs. Fridley
#4 seed Chisago Lakes vs. #5 seed Monticello
#2 seed Red Wing vs. Simley
#3 seed Fergus Falls vs. Waseca
#1 seed St. Croix Lutheran vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
#4 seed Braham vs. #5 seed Maple River
#2 seed Caledonia vs. Jackson County Central
#3 seed Esko vs. Annandale
BY THE NUMBERS
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