Boys State Hockey: Class 1A semifinal – Hermantown tops Mahtomedi 7-6 in overtime

Boys State Hockey: Class 1A State Semifinal – Hermantown vs. Mahtomedi

A year ago, Mahtomedi was the No. 3 seed en route to winning the Class A state championship. To get there, the Zephyrs had to upend No. 2 Hermantown in the semifinals. When the two matched up again on Friday, March 8 in the Class A semifinals of the Minnesota State High School League’s Boys Hockey State Tournament, a semifinal-record crowd of 13,391 had to be pondering what storyline would emerge this time.

It will certainly be remembered as a classic.

Junior wing River Freeman scored on a one-time blast from the center of the far circle with 48.5 seconds remaining in overtime to give top-seeded Hermantown a 7-6 victory over No. 4 Mahtomedi in a battle that featured huge leads, a spirited comeback and a dramatic ending. The victory ends the Class A championship reign of Mahtomedi and sends the Hawks (20-8-2) into the title game for the 12th time in program history against No. 3-seeded St. Cloud Cathedral, which also needed overtime to earn a championship berth.

Freeman had two goals and sophomore forward AJ Francisco had a hat trick in the roller coaster game that featured Hermantown building a four-goal first-period lead and then having to withstand a ferocious rally by the defending Class A champions.

It was the second victory over Mahtomedi this season. The other was a 5-1 win on Dec. 16.

Mahtomedi’s comeback, which once was a four-goal deficit in the first period, was completed with 50.2 seconds remaining when junior defenseman Sam Harris scored his third goal, a wrist shot that found its way through traffic to forge a 6-all tie after regulation time. Just more than a minute earlier, he pulled the Zephyrs to within a goal on a long-distance shot from the far side.

Hermantown bumped its lead back to two goals at 6-4 with 11:19 left in the third period behind a goal from Francisco. He completed his hat trick bid by gaining possession of the puck in the lower circle and patiently wheeled around Mahtomedi senior goalie Charlie Brandt before tucking in a shot in a narrow opening between the goalie pad and the far post. 

Mahtomedi inched to within 5-4 with 14:06 left in the third period on a goal from senior Wyatt Tarnowski, a 6-foot-8 defenseman. From between the blue line and the near circle he a shot on goal that eluded two players in front of senior goalie Dane Callaway and kept going until it found the upper corner. It was his fifth goal of the season.

An eventful second period featured four goals, including three from Mahtomedi, which suddenly had stolen momentum despite still trailing by two goals with one period to play. For the second time in the period, Mahtomedi pulled to within two goals on a goal by senior wing Patrick Egan off an assist from Tarnowski. Tarnowski started the play just inside the blue line with a fake around a Hermantown defender. Tarnowski got off a pass to Egan, who was in a congested mass of players in front of the Hermantown goal. Egan had enough time to corral the pass and slip the puck past Calloway.

Moments after Mahtomedi showed serious signs of life with its first two goals to climb to within 4-2, Hermantown quickly answered just seconds into a power play to restore a three-goal advantage. Francisco scored his second of the game after patiently timing a wrist shot that found the far upper corner with 6:23 left in the second period.

It was an important goal in cooling Mahtomedi’s momentum. Just 30 seconds earlier, Mahtomedi pulled to within two goals on a power play goal from senior Jake Hood-Chlebeck. He fired a shot from the top of the far circle, a shot that was slowed by Callaway, but not stopped. The puck had enough velocity that it trickled over the goal line for Hood-Chlebeck’s 28th goal of the season and third of the tournament.

Mahtomedi scored its much-needed first goal on their eighth shot of the game, a wrister from Harris midway through the second period.

Hermantown was off and running with four goals in the first period behind continuous offensive surges that resulted in outshooting the Zephyrs 16-5 in the opening period.

Senior defenseman Weston Bohlman ended the spree on an even-strength goal with 44 seconds left in the first period. Prior to that, the Hawks scored three in a five-minute span started by Freeman and then followed by junior wing Jack Slattengren and Francisco, respectively. Freeman had two assists in the first period.