ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — After Hermantown lost the state championship due to an unlucky deflection last season, the few returning Hawks wanted their chance at redemption.
Despite losing 14 players from last year’s state runner-up squad, Hermantown has another shot at glory thanks to a couple of fortunate bounces of their own.
Hawks junior Andrew Mattson snapped a 4-4 tie with just over 6 minutes remaining and Hermantown held on to beat Hibbing/Chisholm 6-4 in the first semifinal of the Class 1A boys state hockey tournament on Friday at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Hawks will face the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between top seed St. Thomas Academy and Thief River Falls in Saturday’s state title game.
“We didn’t have many returners, but our goal at the beginning was to be right back in this game,” junior defenseman Jared Kolquist said. “There was a lot of passion to get here.”
A few bounces going Hermantown’s way certainly helped.
Kolquist finished the scoring on a long empty-net goal with 49 seconds left. After deflecting a shot in his defensive zone, Kolquist flipped the puck down the length of the ice into the waiting net, negating a late Hibbing/Chisholm power play.
Mattson’s game-winner wasn’t a picture-perfect goal either, just the result of some hard work.
Mattson sneaked a rebound shot past Bluejackets goaltender Nathan Tromp and just inside the far post to put Hermantown (25-3-2) into its second consecutive state title game.
“(Coach) has taught us, `Just crash the net with everything you’ve got,”‘ Mattson said. “Sure enough the rebound just came to my stick and I batted away at it and it went in.”
Mattson added two assists and Garrett Skrbich scored twice for the Hawks, who lost 2-1 to Breck in the finals last season after a puck deflected off of a Breck player’s shin pad and past Hermantown’s goaltender for the winning score with 1:40 left.
“We want to make the most of it this time and we want to come up on the winning side,” Kolquist said.
Travis Koepke and Jesse Dyson also scored for Hermantown. Dyson’s goal was shot from behind the goal and deflected off a Hibbing/Chisholm player into the net, part of a four goal spurt in the second period for the Hawks.
Bluejackets sophomore Adam Johnson scored three straight goals to erase the 4-1 deficit.
“If you let him loose he’ll beat you up every time,” Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said. “He’s unbelievable. He’s as good a player as we’ve seen this year. He’s got the great hands, good vision and he’s tough inside.”
Johnson’s effort was just what the Bluejackets needed to restore their faith.
“That’s what we needed,” Hibbing/Chisholm coach Mark DeCenzo said. “We finally got it. We made a couple of nice plays. We got a spark and it gave us a belief. After that, we were much better hockey team.”
Nick DeCenzo added a goal and two assists for Hibbing/Chisholm (18-10-2).
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