Boys Hockey Class A Championship: Mahtomedi 6, Warroad 5, 2OT
Posted: Saturday, March 11, 2023 - 5:07 PM
A “state championship game for the ages” can often be a worn out phrase, but it appropriately fits to describe the Minnesota State High School League’s Class A Boys Hockey Championship Game on Saturday, March 11 at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. Indeed, all of the elements contained in the creation of an epic classic that is filled with dramatic twists, offensive wizardry and nail-biting tension were accounted for when top-seeded Warroad faced No. 3 Mahtomedi with the Class A championship at stake.
Of course, a euphoric conclusion was covered, too, as Mahtomedi completed multiple comebacks en route to a stunning 6-5 victory in double overtime in front of a crowd of 9,512 that didn’t sit down during a tension-packed third period and two extra sessions. Senior forward Jonathon Grove put a conclusion to the drama when hescored with nearly five minutes elapsed to give the Zephyrs (23-8-0) their second Class A crown since 2020.
It was the first loss of the season for Warroad (29-1-1), which last had a setback a year ago when the Warriors lost to Hermantown in the Class A title game.
In a dazzling end-to-end display during a game that lasted nearly three hours, the teams combined for 97 shots on goal with Warroad leading the way with 51. It was also the first time in the League’s championship game history that a player from each team had a hat trick. That feat belonged to Warroad junior forward Carson Pilgrim and Mahtomedi senior forward Charles Drage.
Those heroics merely led to the exhilarating conclusion created by Grove on a faceoff play that the Zephyrs call “Lava Cake.” After winning the draw and an initial shot was taken on Warroad senior goalie Hampton Slukynski, Grove gobbled up a long rebound, and on Mahtomedi’s 46th shot on goal, he skated around Slukynski and slid the puck into an open goal that ignited a frenzied celebration where sticks and gloves filled the air.
It was the second championship in as many appearances in the title game for the Zephyrs. Warroad was attempting to add to its championship legacy to join crowns in 1994, 1996, 2003 and 2005.
Through the first overtime, Warroad held a 47-43 advantage in shots on goal as the back-and-forth play created dozens of scoring chances. In a scoreless overtime, Warroad had a modest 8-7 edge in shots, but each team had a quality scoring from point-blank range, but couldn’t connect.
Mahtomedi outshot Warroad 18-11 in the third period and played with a sense of heightened urgency in the midst of carving into two-goal deficits. The persistence paid off when Drage completed his hat trick with 1:20 remaining in regulation time to force more hockey. With six minutes left in regulation, he pulled the Zephyrs into view again when he redirected a shot from in front.
The Zephyrs thought they had scored with 7:46 remaining in regulation, but that goal was waved off after review because of goalie interference.
Warroad again built a two-goal margin at 5-3 with 9:52 left in regulation on a goal from junior forward Peyton Sunderland. He scored his second goal of the season, and second of the tournament, when he took a pass from senior defenseman Erick Comstock and one-timed it past junior goalie Charles Brandt before being taken down by two Mahtomedi defenders.
Less than three minutes earlier, Mahtomedi again inched closer to the Warriors on a goal from Charles Drage. He was alone in front of the Warroad goal when he wheeled around and then hit a crisp shot past Warroad senior goalie Hampton Slukynsky.
Just moments earlier, Warroad had another two-goal lead at 4-2 behind Pilgrim’s competition of a hat trick. He took possession of the puck at center ice and angled toward the far circle. As his laser shot
Warroad accounted for the only two goals of the second period in building a 3-1 lead. Pilgrim snapped a 1-all deadlock after one period with his second goal of the game with 11:52 left in the second period. From just inside the blueline, he zipped around two defenders before ripping a wrist shot into a narrow opening in the upper right corner.
Warroad opening the scoring in an entertaining first period with 2:47 left when junior forward Carson Pilgrim whistled a wrist from the top of the far circle for his 50th goal of the season. He had taken a long backhand pass from junior forward Murray Marvin-Cordes before finding his target and his fifth goal of the tournament.
But Mahtomedi, despite being outshot 15-12 in the first period, came right back with muster. Senior forward Carter Haycraft finished off a surge on a long rebound in front for his 13th goal of the season, this one with 52.1 seconds left in regulation time.
Third place: Hermantown (27-3-1) bounced back from a semifinal loss on Friday to record a 2-0 victory over Orono (24-7-0) in the third-place game.
In a game that opened with almost two periods of scoreless hockey, Hermantown broke into the scoring column at 16:48 of the second period with a goal by junior defenseman Drew Nelson.
His unassisted goal proved to be the game-winner as the Hawks held on for the victory. Nelson returned to the scoring column in the third period with a power play goal at 6:24 to set the final score. The Hawks outshot the Spartans 38-15 as senior goalie Garron Opsahl had 15 saves in the shutout win. Senior goalie Brock Peyton was the goalie of record for Orono with 36 saves in the game.
Consolation: A pair of goals by St. Cloud Cathedral (18-13) sophomore forward Joey Gillespie powered the Crusaders to a 4-1 win over Alexandria Area (15-14-1) in the consolation final at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis.
Alexandria Area senior forward Nicholas Peterson opened the game’s scoring at 6:31 of the first period before Gillespie tied the game at 16:05 of the first period with his first goal of the day. St. Cloud Cathedral junior forward Andrew Dwinnell added the game winner at 10:41 of the second period on the power play before the Crusaders iced the decision with third period goals that were provided by Gillespie and senior forward Kyle Kozak to make it 4-1.
Junior goalie Nick Hansen recorded the win in the nets for St. Cloud Cathedral with 22 saves, while senior goalie Elijah Rasmusen had 22 saves for Alexandria Area. On the power play, St. Cloud Cathedral was 1-of-4 and Alexandria Area was 0-of-3.