John's Journal
Eight Girls Basketball Teams Will Make First State Appearance3/7/2020
There will some new faces and logos at the 2020 girls state basketball tournament, which will be held Wednesday through Saturday at Williams Arena and adjoining Maturi Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus. Eight of the 32 teams will play at state for the first time.

The largest group of schools qualifying for their first girls tournament are in Class 1A, where the newcomers are Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Fillmore Central and Henning. The final of four quarterfinal games Thursday will be between Fillmore Central and Henning at Maturi Pavilion.

The other tournament newcomers are Concordia Academy and Duluth Marshall in Class 2A, Waconia in 3A and Farmington in 4A.

Here are the quarterfinal matchups in each class:

Class 4A
Wednesday at Williams Arena
10 am: Cambridge-Isanti vs. Hopkins
Noon: Stillwater vs. Park Center
2 pm: Eden Prairie vs. Farmington
4 pm: Lakeville North vs. St. Michael-Albertville

Class 3A
Wednesday at Maturi Pavilion
10 am: Hermantown vs. DeLaSalle
Noon: Holy Angels vs. Simley
2 pm: Alexandria vs. Becker
4 pm: Waconia vs. Red Wing

Class 2A
Wednesday at Williams Arena
6 pm: Concordia Academy vs. Rochester Lourdes
8 pm: Waseca vs. Pelican Rapids
Wednesday at Maturi Pavilion
6 pm: Providence Academy vs. Sauk Centre
8 pm: Duluth Marshall vs. New London-Spicer

Class 1A
Thursday at Maturi Pavilion
11 am: Red Lake vs. Minneota
1 pm: Heritage Christian vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
3 pm: Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa vs. Cromwell-Wright
5 pm: Fillmore Central vs. Henning

Boys State Hockey Tournament

CLASS A


Fifth place
Delano 2, Monticello 1 (overtime)

Third place
St. Cloud Cathedral 6, Warroad 4

Championship
Mahtomedi 3, Hermantown 2 (overtime)

Herb Brooks Award
Colin Hagstrom, Mahtomedi

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team
Grant Slukynsky, Blake Norris, Warroad; Jack Smith, Jon Bell, St. Cloud Cathedral; Blake Biondi, Zack Kilen, Joey Pierce, Jacob Backstrom, Hermantown; Nikolai Dulak, J.D. Metz, Nathan Gruhlke, Ben Dardis, Mahtomedi.

CLASS AA

Fifth place
Andover 4, Maple Grove 1

Third place
Blake 4, St. Thomas Academy 0

Championship
Hill Murray 4, Eden Prairie 1

Herb Brooks Award
Will Svenddal, Blake

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team
Wyatt Kaiser, Andover; Will Svenddal, Joe Miller, Jack Sabre, Blake; Axel Rosenlund, Luke Mittelstadt, Nathan Langenbrunner, Ben Steeves, Eden Prairie; Remington Keopple, Nick Pierre, Charlie Strobel, Dylan Godbout, Hill-Murray.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea" wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Lessons Learned On The Ice And Off, Now And Forever3/6/2020
There are times when things don't work out. That's certainly the case in sports, where disappointment can happen quietly, early in a season, or on the biggest, loudest, latest stage of all.

For two teams competing this weekend in the 76th annual Minnesota boys state hockey tournament, the storylines included bumps a couple months ago in one case and Friday in the other. In all such situations, it’s how the coaches and players respond that’s most important.

The St. Thomas Academy Cadets will meet Blake for third place in Class AA on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. Such an extended postseason was not in everyone’s forecast for the Cadets back in mid-January. They were at a crossroads, treading water and fighting a dangerous current with a record of 5-7-2. The players got together, talked it out and, as goaltender Tommy Aitken said, "We all just decided to buy in. I think that’s what changed everything around."

Following the Cadets’ 3-2 win over Andover in Thursday’s state semifinals, St. Thomas Academy coach Trent Eigner used the term “off the rails” to describe the situation back then.

“And that's OK,” he added. “I think our players would agree that we're not here tonight if it hadn’t gone off the rails. Sports are fickle; you can play well and not get a result, and you can cheat the game and play bad and still win. Kids are kids, sometimes they have to see it to believe it. So we're trying to help them understand what we as a coaching staff know would give us a chance to be successful in a situation like this.”

Instead of yelling, screaming and kicking trash cans in the locker room, the Cadets focused on what was important.

“One joy I get from coaching is it's not enough to tell a kid to do something because you want them to do it,” Eigner said. “If you're going to mentor a kid, you need to create a big enough ‘why,’ and if you can create that with a kid then now you have something. Because they're actually doing things because they have an understanding of what success looks like and means, rather than you're going to do these things or it's going to cost you ice time. That’s got a short shelf life. So my philosophy is to try and build relationships with the kids that will make them a part of the process of growing the team.

“You have to give them enough leeway to burn their fingers, per se. I've been around it long enough and have had enough success to know that we don't throw on a (Cadets) sweater and think we’re great. We need to foster that belief in them. So to do that, it actually had to go off the rails.”

For St. Cloud Cathedral, the lesson is very fresh. The Crusaders, defending Class A state champions, lost to Hermantown 6-2 in Friday’s semifinals. Yes, there was certainly disappointment for all. But after the game, coach Derrick Brown stressed the life lessons that always ride shotgun in these endeavors.

“As hard as this is right now, I think that what I will take away from this is they took the challenge,” he said. “It's tough to be a champion. And yet here we are, we played a really good hockey team on a Friday, and we get to play tomorrow. And we're going to play really well tomorrow. And that's what high school athletics is about. Sometimes it doesn't go your way. But you know what? Life's not always going to go your way, either.”

Brown was accompanied at the postgame press conference by seniors Jack Smith and Nate Warner. Both had the opportunity to skip their senior seasons and play for USHL teams, but both returned in pursuit of a repeat state title.

“These guys, just being here doing this right now, what a character-building moment for them,” their coach said. “I'm proud of them. I love these guys. They're outstanding, not just hockey players but people, and that's probably the hardest part; it just kind of gets you that tomorrow's it, and then they're gone. And I can't wait to see what they're going to do because both these guys, you're going to hear tons of great stuff about them down the road.”

Boys State Hockey Tournament

CLASS A


Friday’s semifinals

Hermantown 6, St. Cloud Cathedral 2

Mahtomedi 5, Warroad 1

Saturday’s championship

Noon: Hermantown vs. Mahtomedi

CLASS AA

Friday’s semifinals

Eden Prairie 4, Blake 1

Hill-Murray 3, St. Thomas Academy 2 (OT)

Saturday’s championship

7 pm.: Eden Prairie vs. Hill-Murray

Championship games
TV: KSTC Channel 45
Webcast: https://www.45tv.com/prep45/

Consolation games
Webcast: https://www.prepspotlight.tv/MSHSL

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
The Holy Grail, The Pinnacle Of High School Sports3/5/2020
"Eighteen-thousand people got to see a heck of a hockey game."

Let's think about that statement. This wasn't an NHL coach discussing a playoff contest. It wasn't an NCAA coach after a thrilling Frozen Four game. This was a high school coach speaking a few minutes after a quarterfinal game in a state tournament.

Maple Grove coach Todd Bergland summed up the atmosphere of Minnesota's pride and joy very nicely Thursday afternoon. His Crimson had just lost a disappointing 7-5 decision to Blake at Xcel Energy Center, and "heck of a hockey game" is quite accurate.

As a fellow in the press posted on Twitter during the height of the heck: "The roar of the big crowd when a game-tying goal is scored at #mshslstate hockey is quite the thing.”

The actual attendance for Thursday afternoon's two-game session was 16,778, but who’s counting … although that is more than the average home attendance of eight NHL teams this season (the Wild average 17,472).

How big is this tournament? These are the words of Blake senior Jack Sabre, who had two goals and one assist vs. Maple Grove: “It's like, this is the Holy Grail. This is the pinnacle of high school hockey and this is where you want to be.”

And here they are, eight teams in Class A and eight in Class AA. Friday is semifinal day, with winners from those games advancing to Saturday’s championship matchups. Is there anything like it anywhere?

Blake coach Rob McClanahan knows something about big moments and big events. He won an NCAA title with Minnesota in 1979, was a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team and played in 224 NHL games over three seasons.

But before all that, McClanahan was a high school hockey player in Minnesota. He appeared in the state tournament with his Mounds View buddies in 1976. His team lost to Richfield 4-3 in the quarterfinals, beat Henry Sibley 5-1 in the consolation bracket and ended the tournament with a 4-3 overtime loss to Bloomington Kennedy in the sixth-place game.

“It’s the best state tournament of any sport in the country,” he said. “It’s just spectacular. I'm 62 years old and I remember the day I played in the state tournament. These guys are going to remember this for the rest of their lives, without question.”

During the pre-tournament banquet for all the teams, the audience viewed a collection of interviews with NHL players who grew up in Minnesota and played at state. It was stunning.

Eden Prairie senior Ben Steeves, who scored two goals with an assist in the Eagles’ 4-0 win over Lakeville South, was asked if everything he had previously heard about playing at state was an exaggeration.

“There's no exaggeration,” he said with a grin, mentioning the NHL players on the video. “They went on and on and on and listed things; they were asked one question and they kept going on and on. They care about it and so I knew it would be a blast.

“It's crazy. The lights in there; going out for warmups you kind of have to get your eyes to adjust. … and then just the fans, the student sections, the bands, it's super fun playing in front of the whole state of Minnesota, too, because it's on TV.”

The big stage can be intimidating, with 76 years of tournament history, the bright lights, the big crowds, the television audience, the pressure. Man oh man, what a deal for teenagers.

“We talk about it,” McClanahan said. “We don't shy away from this situation. You know, this is pretty cool for these guys. It's something that they may never see again. And it's even bigger today than when I had the opportunity to play in it. We talk about the big stage, we talk about accepting it and embracing it.”

Tournament Tidbits

Andover coach Mark Manney is a 1979 Moorhead High School graduate who played hockey at the Air Force Academy and later piloted Air Force One for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He’s now a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel.

After top-seeded Andover lost to unseeded St. Thomas Academy 3-2 on Thursday, Manney used equine terms to describe the tournament field.

“Look around, there are a lot of good teams. It's wide open. There’s no Secretariat in this field. It's a bunch of mudders, and a couple beauty queens played this afternoon, but the rest of us are just working the corners and hoping for a little hay.”

Boys State Hockey Tournament

CLASS A

Wednesday’s quarterfinals


St. Cloud Cathedral 11, Mankato East/Loyola 2

Hermantown 7, Monticello 1

Warroad 9, Hutchinson 3

Mahtomedi 5, Delano 2

Thursday’s consolation

Monticello 6, Mankato East/Loyola 1

Delano 6, Hutchinson 5 (OT)

Friday’s semifinals

11 a.m.: St. Cloud Cathedral vs. Hermantown

Followed by: Warroad vs. Mahtomedi

CLASS AA

Thursday’s quarterfinals


Blake 7, Maple Grove 5

Eden Prairie 4, Lakeville South 0

St. Thomas Academy 3, Andover 2

Hill-Murray 5, Moorhead 1

Friday’s semifinals

6 p.m.: Blake vs. Eden Prairie

Followed by: St. Thomas Academy vs. Hill-Murray

Friday’s consolation

10 a.m.: Maple Grove vs. Lakeville South

Followed by: Andover vs. Moorhead

Quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games
TV: KSTC Channel 45
Webcast: https://www.45tv.com/prep45/


Consolation games
Webcast: https://www.prepspotlight.tv/MSHSL

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
The Holy Grail, The Pinnacle Of High School Sports3/5/2020
"Eighteen-thousand people got to see a heck of a hockey game."

Let's think about that statement. This wasn't an NHL coach discussing a playoff contest. It wasn't an NCAA coach after a thrilling Frozen Four game. This was a high school coach speaking a few minutes after a quarterfinal game in a state tournament.

Maple Grove coach Todd Bergland summed up the atmosphere of Minnesota’s pride and joy very nicely Thursday afternoon. His Crimson had just lost a disappointing 7-5 decision to Blake at Xcel Energy Center, and "heck of a hockey game” is quite accurate.

As a fellow in the press posted on Twitter during the height of the heck: “The roar of the big crowd when a game-tying goal is scored at #mshslstate hockey is quite the thing.”

The actual attendance for Thursday afternoon’s two-game session was 16,778, but who’s counting … although that is more than the average home attendance of eight NHL teams this season (the Wild average 17,472).

How big is this tournament? These are the words of Blake senior Jack Sabre, who had two goals and one assist vs. Maple Grove: “It's like, this is the Holy Grail. This is the pinnacle of high school hockey and this is where you want to be.”

And here they are, eight teams in Class A and eight in Class AA. Friday is semifinal day, with winners from those games advancing to Saturday’s championship matchups. Is there anything like it anywhere?

Blake coach Rob McClanahan knows something about big moments and big events. He won an NCAA title with Minnesota in 1979, was a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team and played in 224 NHL games over three seasons.

But before all that, McClanahan was a high school hockey player in Minnesota. He appeared in the state tournament with his Mounds View buddies in 1976. His team lost to Richfield 4-3 in the quarterfinals, beat Henry Sibley 5-1 in the consolation bracket and ended the tournament with a 4-3 overtime loss to Bloomington Kennedy in the sixth-place game.

“It’s the best state tournament of any sport in the country,” he said. “It’s just spectacular. I'm 62 years old and I remember the day I played in the state tournament. These guys are going to remember this for the rest of their lives, without question.”

During the pre-tournament banquet for all the teams, the audience viewed a collection of interviews with NHL players who grew up in Minnesota and played at state. It was stunning.

Eden Prairie senior Ben Steeves, who scored two goals with an assist in the Eagles’ 4-0 win over Lakeville South, was asked if everything he had previously heard about playing at state was an exaggeration.

“There's no exaggeration,” he said with a grin, mentioning the NHL players on the video. “They went on and on and on and listed things; they were asked one question and they kept going on and on. They care about it and so I knew it would be a blast.

“It's crazy. The lights in there; going out for warmups you kind of have to get your eyes to adjust. … and then just the fans, the student sections, the bands, it's super fun playing in front of the whole state of Minnesota, too, because it's on TV.”

The big stage can be intimidating, with 76 years of tournament history, the bright lights, the big crowds, the television audience, the pressure. Man oh man, what a deal for teenagers.

“We talk about it,” McClanahan said. “We don't shy away from this situation. You know, this is pretty cool for these guys. It's something that they may never see again. And it's even bigger today than when I had the opportunity to play in it. We talk about the big stage, we talk about accepting it and embracing it.”

Tournament Tidbits

Andover coach Mark Manney is a 1979 Moorhead High School graduate who played hockey at the Air Force Academy and later piloted Air Force One for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He’s now a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel.

After top-seeded Andover lost to unseeded St. Thomas Academy 3-2 on Thursday, Manney used equine terms to describe the tournament field.

“Look around, there are a lot of good teams. It's wide open. There’s no Secretariat in this field. It's a bunch of mudders, and a couple beauty queens played this afternoon, but the rest of us are just working the corners and hoping for a little hay.”

Boys State Hockey Tournament

CLASS A

Wednesday’s quarterfinals


St. Cloud Cathedral 11, Mankato East/Loyola 2

Hermantown 7, Monticello 1

Warroad 9, Hutchinson 3

Mahtomedi 5, Delano 2

Thursday’s consolation

Monticello 6, Mankato East/Loyola 1

Delano 6, Hutchinson 5 (OT)

Friday’s semifinals

11 a.m.: St. Cloud Cathedral vs. Hermantown

Followed by: Warroad vs. Mahtomedi

CLASS AA

Thursday’s quarterfinals


Blake 7, Maple Grove 5

Eden Prairie 4, Lakeville South 0

St. Thomas Academy 3, Andover 2

Hill-Murray 5, Moorhead 1

Friday’s semifinals

6 p.m.: Blake vs. Eden Prairie

Followed by: St. Thomas Academy vs. Hill-Murray

Friday’s consolation

10 a.m.: Maple Grove vs. Lakeville South

Followed by: Andover vs. Moorhead

Quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games
TV: KSTC Channel 45
Webcast: https://www.45tv.com/prep45/
Consolation games
Webcast: https://www.prepspotlight.tv/MSHSL

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Bright Lights, Big City And Career Goal Number One3/4/2020
Throughout the hockey season, St. Cloud Cathedral sophomore Chandler Hendricks did his work. He practiced hard, learned from the coaching staff and older players, contributed and waited.

The Crusaders' fourth-line forward got on the ice in 16 of 24 regular-season games and all three section tournament games. His stat line prior to Wednesday's Class A state quarterfinal vs. Mankato East/Loyola at Xcel Energy Center was pretty simple: Zero shots on goal, zero goals, zero assists.

The defending champion Crusaders came to state with a 23-3-1 record and No. 2 seed in the Class A field. Their season included a 2-1 win over Andover, which is the No. 1 seed in the Class AA state tournament that opens Thursday.

Wednesday's Cathedral-Mankato East/Loyola game got out of hand pretty rapidly, with the Crusaders leading 4-1 after the first period and 9-2 after two. As the third period began, Cathedral’s big honchos had shown their stuff; Jack Smith had two goals and two assists while Nate Warner and Blake Perbix each had a goal and three assists.

The score was 10-1 when Chandler’s opportunity came. Senior teammate C.J. Zins fired a shot at the goal as Hendricks leaned into the path of the puck. Chandler put his stick in perfect position, nicked that baby ever so slightly and you’ll never guess what happened.

His first career varsity goal came 5 minutes, 13 seconds into the third period.

"Yeah, that was the best experience I've ever had in any sport," Hendricks said. "I'm just so happy to be on this team with these guys.

“I kind of just saw C.J. come in and take a nice low shot. I tipped it in, no one was on me.”

A young player scoring his first career goal under the bright lights of the NHL arena, with a television audience watching, was indeed special for Chandler and his teammates. It’s quite the deal for a coach, too.

“There’s nothing better,” said Crusaders coach Derrick Brown. “I thought today was awesome; we got all 20 guys on the ice to experience that.

“Chandler has been working hard, learning from these older guys, he's in practice every day. Our fourth line, swing line guys, that's a tough role as a sophomore and he's come and worked hard. … It's rewarding to see kids that have moments like that. That's what this is about.”

Hermantown 7, Monticello 1

Blake Biondi had a hat trick and two assists as the third-seeded Hawks advanced to Friday’s semifinals against Cathedral. Zach Kilen had two goals and an assist.

Monticello coach Eric Nelson said Biondi is “such a dynamic player, he’s a man among boys out there, he’s hard to stop. He had a great game and he’s a great player. The horses that they've got were probably a little bit better than our horses today.”

Warroad 9, Hutchinson 3

The top-seeded Warriors were led by senior Grant Slukynsky, who had three goals and four assists. His seven points was one short of the tournament record of eight, set by John Mayasich of Eveleth in 1951. Mayasich had seven goals and one assist in the 1951 state semifinals as Eveleth defeated Minneapolis Southwest 11-5. His seven goals remains a tournament record.

Jason Shaugabay also had a hat trick for Warroad.

Mahtomedi 5, Delano 2

The fourth-seeded Zephyrs scored the game’s final five goals to skate past the fifth-seeded Tigers, who led 2-0 after the first period.

Tournament Tidbits

Hermantown, which went to state every year from 2010 through 2018, was knocked out of last year’s playoffs by Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin in the Section 7 tournament. Now that the Hawks are back, coach Patrick Andrews said winning in Wednesday’s quarterfinals -- and not playing again until Friday’s semifinals -- is the perfect scenario.

“Oh, it's great,” he said. “Hey, you’ve got to win this first one and now they get to just take it all in. And that's what we talked about; we get to stay at the X and enjoy this. Never take this for granted.

“If we took anything away from losing, I think with our whole program and community, everyone started taking (winning) for granted. It was a long, hard summer and winter, and to get back here, now they get to enjoy it. … they're going to get to take in the whole deal tonight and AA games tomorrow and they get to just be kids. This is the greatest, bar none, the greatest youth sporting event in the country, in the world, and they get to enjoy every second of it and that's what I'm excited about.”

Boys State Hockey Tournament

Wednesday’s Class A quarterfinals


St. Cloud Catheral 11, Mankato East/Loyola 2

Hermantown 7, Monticello 1

Warroad 9, Hutchinson 3

Mahtomedi 5, Delano 2

Thursday’s Class AA quarterfinals

11 a.m.
Maple Grove vs Blake

30 minutes after completion of previous game
Lakeville South vs Eden Prairie

6 p.m.
St. Thomas Academy vs Andover

30 minutes after completion of previous game
Hill-Murray vs Moorhead

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.