The key moment of the opening day of the boys state hockey tournament may have come exactly five seconds into the second period of the first game. It was the initial goal of the tournament, and it changed everything.
Second-seeded Hermantown and unseeded Alexandria had played a scoreless first period in Wednesday’s Class 1A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center. On the second-period faceoff, the puck slid to Alexandria’s Jodan Domine on the blue line. He gave it a slap and it sailed past Hawks goaltender Connor Lucas to put the Cardinals in front 1-0.
That, as it turns out, may have been a mistake.
“Quite honestly,” said Alexandria coach Scott Woods, “we kind of woke the sleeping giant at that point.”
Indeed. Hermantown responded with five second-period goals – including one by Garrett Skrbich 34 seconds after Domine’s – and rolled into Friday’s semifinals with a 5-1 victory.
Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said, “When they scored, that really kind of percolated the guys a bit. … Giving up that goal get the competitive juices going. It puts a little fear into you.”
Hermantown was a clear favorite in the game, coming in with the second seed and a record of 23-3-2. Alexandria will take a 12-16-1 record into the consolation bracket.
The Hawks and their fans had reason to be nervous early, because they were unable to put anything past Alexandria goaltender Ben Allen despite a 15-6 edge in first-period shots. The final shot total was 56-14 in favor of the Hawks, who outshot the Cardinals 22-3 in the second period.
In the game’s final minutes, the Hermantown student section was signaling the next stop for the Cardinals by chanting “Mariucci!”
--Unseeded Hibbing/Chisholm pulled off the first upset of the tournament, beating No. 3 seed Rochester Lourdes 4-0 in the second game. In the evening session, No. 1 seed St. Thomas Academy defeated New Ulm 13-2 and No. 4 seed Breck lost to Thief River Falls 7-5 in the best game of the day.
--Favorite Decoration: On the back of Breck goaltender Jack Kenney’s helmet is a photo of the team huddled around him, shot from above. Under the photo are words “PLAY AS ONE.” Very cool.
--Dress Code: Hermantown’s students came in full white-out regalia. The Rochester Lourdes students chose black-out mode. The Cadets of St. Thomas Academy, as usual, wore their dress military uniforms.
--Mascot Sightings: The Alexandria Cardinal, wearing a headband.
--Fashion Statement: The vertical stripes on the socks worn by the Rochester Lourdes players.
--Twitter note/ This Tweet appeared Tuesday: “I get to be in the Press Boxes of the Xcel on Thursday for Boys Hockey Tourney. Will my dream of meeting @MSHSLjohn come true!!!???!!! :)” My reply went something like this: Aming a little low, aren’t you?
--Band Report: The Alexandria pep band kicked off the week by playing “Crazy Train.” Splendid start.
Best Save: During the third game of the day, the power cord for my laptop stopped working. To the rescue rode MSHSL media steward Jil Fiemeyer of Wadena. She loaned me the cord to her laptop (which she wasn't using), and I survived the night without having to resort to a manual typewriter. Hats off to Jil!.
--I was in the elevator to the press box Wednesday morning when the first DC question was asked: “Hey John, how many Diet Cokes are you gonna drink this week?” A few minutes later came this query: “How many Diet Cokes so far today?” During the final game of the day, someone in the press box showed me a question they had been asked via text message: “What’s the website where I can follow the Diet Coke Count?” I have definitely created a monster.
--Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 3 for the tournament, 31 for the winter tournaments.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,420
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn