Welcome back Wilderness Nation! So unless you don't live in Minnesota or have been living in a hole the last week, The Tournament has started. We covered the opening round of the Class A tournament earlier in the week and both tournaments have provided some fantastic hockey action. We have our Cinderella, we have our favorites and we've had some epic comebacks.
In the Class A semi-finals #2 seed Mahtomedi took on the defending champion #3 seed East Grand Forks. In the first period East Grand Forks came out aggressive, looking to put Mahtomedi on their heels from the start. Unfortunately, for East Grand Forks it did not seem to pay dividends by the end of the first as the teams were tied 1-1 after one. In the second East Grand Forks went back to work, really playing physical and trying to put them down. The teams each scored again in the second, but East Grand Forks was able to finally take the lead going into the third. It was in the third that their constant pressure and physical play finally payed off as Mahtomedi just looked exhausted from the first two periods and was just not able to make the combat that play in the third. East Grand Forks scored two in the third and thoroughly dominated the third, heading into the championship game to defend their title. The real question would be who would they face in the championship. Would Saturday's Title game be a rematch from last year against the offensive powerhouse Hermantown, or a surprise in the defensive St. Cloud Apollo. Hermantown came out much like East Grand Forks did in our first game and really tried to put St. Cloud Apollo on their heels. St. Cloud Apollo played really well and put it on Hermantown, constantly blocking shots and getting into passing lanes. The Hawks began to look a little frustrated as they only managed 9 shots on goal in the first, really being slowed down and dragged into a defensive struggle that would favor St. Cloud Apollo. The second started and started out looking much like the first, a ton of blocked shots and a ton of broken entries by Hermantown. Then at 6:44 of the second, one of Hermantown's players not named Koepke or Kero, Jesse Jacques buried a slapper that seemed to be the result of St. Cloud Apollo d-man screening his own goalie. St. Cloud Apollo, despite being down only one began to look a little uncomfortable as they needed to alter their full defensive style and had to try to open up a little more and play offense. They really could not get anything going, only managing 4 shots in the period. The third was more of the same as Hermantown began to work their game even further, scoring very early in the third to take the 2-0 lead, which would be more than enough as St. Cloud Apollo's run ends at the hands of the Hawks. So we have a rematch in Class A between East Grand Forks and Hermantown. One of the fun stories this year, however, is these teams have already played once this year, a victory for the Hawks at home. This time there is far more at stake than a little revenge on a home rink. These two teams take the ice this afternoon at noon.
Class AA has quite a different story than Class A as we have a true Cinderella story. In the Quarterfinals Lakeville North remained undefeated and dominated Hill-Murray. With a 4-1 score and Hill-Murray failed to beat the Lakeville North goaltender after the first period. Lakeville North advanced to face the winner of Eden Prairie and Blaine. After two periods Eden Prairie looked like they were going to cruise to a match up with Lakeville North. Blaine did not make it easy though, potting two goals in the third putting pressure on but being unable to close the gap. Edina came into the tournament as the favorite to repeat as champions yet again and looked to roll through Bemidji in the opening round. They certainly looked much like the champions of last year, scoring 3 goals in the first period of the game and went into the second with a large lead. Bemidji came out in the second looking like a completely different team, scoring two goals in the first minute of the second period. This game continued to be a back and forth battle, but Edina was just the better team, winning 6-4 and advancing to face the winner of St. Thomas Academy and Duluth East. In that match up many people thought that St. Thomas Academy and Edina were heading for a huge battle in the semi-finals. After two periods it looked very much like that would be the case as East found themselves down 5-2. Duluth East managed to get one more but were not looking like they could make a run at the upset. That was until with under three minutes to go, Duluth East went on the power play. East found the back of the net once and then less than a minute later tied up the game and suddenly it looked like Duluth East might be able to pull off the win. They ended up going to overtime, but it didn't take long for Ryan Peterson to tip in a from the point to finish off not only the upset, but also an incredible comeback. The downside to that win is they would have to face Edina, who looked unbeatable, especially by a team who finished the season 14-10-4. In the late game Lakeville North took on Eden Prairie for a place in the championship and for Lakeville North a shot at redemption from last year. An evenly fought game that was fun to watch resulted in a tight game through two, with Lakeville North holding a slim 3-2 lead. Unfortunately for Eden Prairie Nick Poehling woke up and began handing out assists and lead Lakeville North to 4 third period goals and a 6-2 win and headed to take on the winner of Duluth East and Edina. Both Duluth East and Edina have a great history in the state tournament but this looked to be an easy win for Edina, having already beat Duluth East this year 7-1. A classic Northern team against the cities team where there was a lot of physical, hard hitting plays throughout the game. Edina scored first, halfway through the first and hoped to start burying the Greyhounds. But as they say there is a reason they play the games as just under four minutes later Duluth East scored the tying goal. It was a surprising 1-1 score after one and we looked like Duluth East might still have some fight in them. The second was more of the hard nosed, grind it out hockey as both teams were pushing each other to the brink. Then Nick Altmann made the play of the game, diving after a rebound and swatting a rebound in and shocking the sold out Xcel Energy Center. The Greyhounds took a 2-1 lead into the third, which was once again a really physical period. There were a lot of great chances but both goaltenders stood strong, including a tipped shot that Gunnar Howg somehow got a pad on that would have tied it. With less than three to go in the final period, Ash Altmann got behind the Edina defense and put the final nail in the coffin, putting the Greyhounds up 3-1 and they once again pulled off the upset beating Edina and guaranteeing that we will have a new Class AA champion this year. Duluth East looks to make a clean sweep of the top seeds in the tournament at 7pm tonight, as number one seed Lakeville North looks to avoid becoming another casualty to the Greyhounds. A side note from this evening is the record for the most people watching an indoor hockey game ever in the state of Minnesota, with an attendance of 21,609.
Well, our championships are set, both which look to be great games and is a fantastic way to spend a Saturday. Who are you rooting for in the championship games?