Two Benilde-St. Margaret’s hockey players were not on the ice for the postgame celebration Saturday night after the Red Knights won the Class 2A state championship with a 5-0 victory over Hill-Murray.
One of them was Jake Horton, who had been given a five-minute major penalty for spearing and an additional 10 minutes for gross misconduct; that meant he was off the ice for the game’s final 7 minutes, 47 seconds. And under MSHSL rules, any player ejected from a game cannot participate in postgame awards ceremonies.
The other missing player was a sophomore who played in only seven varsity games this season, a youngster who scored no goals, had two assists, took five shots, was a plus-2 and was not called for a penalty.
That player is Jack Jablonski, who watched the game in his wheelchair from a suite at Xcel Energy Center. Jack, who suffered a severe spinal injury in late December, did not come on the ice afterwards because he was waiting in the locker room, waiting for a more private celebration.
By the time all the photos had been snapped and the Red Knights had whooped it up on the ice, the whooping continued down the tunnel and into the locker room. Horton was the first guy to walk to the locker room, and he was carrying two pretty special things: the state championship trophy and armfuls of love for his friend Jack.
As soon as he saw Jack, Horton yelled, “Hey Jabbers, I’ve got somethin' for you!”
There were hugs and tears as the players saw Jack. The last man to come off the ice was coach Ken Pauly, who yelled, “Jabby! Jabby baby! How ya doin’ 13?!”
On the ice, the headline was Benilde junior Grant Besse scoring all five of his team’s goals – three of them shorthanded -- in an astounding performance that will go down in history. But behind the scenes, the headline was the hugs and the tears and the special moments shared by the Red Knights.
“I think what’s gotten lost in all this is that this a very talented hockey team,” Pauly said in the interview room. “I didn’t imagine that (the season) would end here in this fashion, after everything that’s taken place.
“It’s been emotional, it’s been psychological, it’s been spiritual, it’s been life-changing. And those are things you can’t always say about a season.”
It was a remarkable night. Forget sports, forget winning and losing. Strip away all that and know this: Every soul who watched that game in person or on television will remember it for the rest of their lives.
1A: HERMANTOWN RUNNER-UP FOR THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR
The Hermantown Hawks didn’t want to stop playing hockey together. After 30 games this season, all they wanted to do was keep going until finally, finally, they took home a state championship.
It was not to be.
The Hawks finished as the Class 1A state runner-up for the third consecutive year Saturday afternoon, falling to St. Thomas Academy 5-1 in the title game at Xcel Energy Center. Their three season-ending losses have come against Breck in 2010 and St. Thomas Academy these last two years. Saturday’s defeat was their first loss of the season.
The postgame awards ceremony was well underway and most of the Hawks still had their helmets strapped on, their hands were still wearing their gloves and they were still holding their sticks. They just didn’t want it to end ... especially like this. Again.
It always hurts when family members know their time together is ending.
“We’ve been playing with each other all the way up,” senior Jared Kolquist said afterwards. “It’s kind of like our family, and this being the last game with our family, it kind of hurts. We wanted to go out as champions.”
Classmate Jared Thomas took some solace in knowing what the Hawks have accomplished.
“The last three years we’ve been the public school state champions,” he said.
St. Thomas Academy (26-5) now owns back-to-back state championships and four titles since 2006. Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said after the semifinals that the Hawks would have to play their best game to have a chance against the Cadets, and on Friday and Saturday he spoke about the challenge for a non-metro school to compete with a team as strong as St. Thomas Academy.
“Your typical Class A team will have a hard time with them,” Plante said, “no matter what town you come from.”
RECORDS WERE MEANT TO BE BROKEN
Two attendance records were set Friday at the state hockey tournament ...
--The crowd of 12,227 for the Class 1A semifinals was the largest in history for the 1A semis.
--The crowd of 19,893 for the 2A semifinals was the largest crowd for any hockey game at any level in Minnesota history.
Saturday night’s 2A attendance was 17,607. The total tournament attendance of 123,575 was the fourth-largest in history and the largest since 2008.
Class 1A: Alex Funk, Rochester Lourdes; Joey Hanowski, Little Falls; Grant Opperman, Jack Kenney, Breck; Chris Forney, Thief River Falls; Jared Kolquist, Jared Thomas, Zake Zeleznikar, Hermantown; David Zevnik, Andrew Commers, Tom Novak, Eric Schurhamer, St. Thomas Academy.
Class 2A: Dom Toninato, Nate Repensky, Duluth East; Michael Bitzer, Moorhead; Justin Kloos, Lakeville South; Conrad Sampair, Blake Heinrich, Sam Becker, Hill-Murray; Grant Besse, Christian Horn, Justin Quale, Dan Labosky, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
1A CONSOLATION GAMES
--Breck 4, Thief River Falls 3 (overtime): The Mustangs finished third on the strength of Nate Breitenfeldt’s goal at 3:50 of overtime. It was his first goal of the tournament.
--Little Falls 5, Rochester Lourdes 4: The Flyers led 4-0 in the third before Lourdes rallied to make it close in the fifth-place game. Joey Hanowski had a hat trick for the Flyers.
2A CONSOLATION GAMES
--Lakeville South 2, Moorhead 1: Patrick Lauderdale and Justin Kloos scored for the Cougars in the third-place victory.
--Duluth East 4, Eagan 1: Jake Randolph scored two goals as the Greyhounds won the fifth-place game.
--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 23 for the tournament, 49 for the winter tournaments.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 405
*Miles John has driven: 6,775
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