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Hockey tournament notes: No stress seen from five-time runner-up

03/04/2015, 11:49pm CST
By DAVID La VAQUE and LOREN NELSON, Star Tribune

Back in the Class 1A tournament after five consecutive championship games losses, Hermantown brought only one item along for luck.

 

You couldn’t blame them if Hermantown hockey players sported horseshoes, playoff beards, the Jobu doll of “Major League’’ fame or any other device for bringing luck or warding off bad mojo.

Back in the Class 1A tournament after five consecutive championship games losses, the Hawks brought only one item along — a pink Minnie Mouse bike helmet. Hard to imagine a better representation of what coach Bruce Plante calls a “loosey-goosey” group undeterred by a string of runner-up finishes.

“It’s the MVP helmet and you wear it around,” senior center Nate Pionk said. The helmet first appeared in the team locker room in January at St. Cloud. “Today it got passed to me but I said, ‘No, Ryan [Kero] and I should share this one,’ so we decided to bring it for both of us today.”

Pionk and Kero each scored hat tricks as No. 1-seed Hermantown rolled to a 8-0 victory against Spring Lake Park. Prodded to wear the helmet in the news conference, Kero determined, “Whoever is talking can wear it.”

Could players ever convince Plante to trade his ball cap for the MVP helmet?

“I’m never player of the game,” Plante said.

New Ulm hangs around

Based on recent histories, strength of schedules, records, rankings and perhaps most of all geography, the Class 1A quarterfinal between Mahtomedi and New Ulm figured to be a blowout of sizable proportions.

“Everybody thinks those little southern towns, coming up, they are going to get beat 10-0 every time,” said New Ulm’s Ethan Kraus, who scored a goal in the Eagles’ 6-3 loss to the No. 2-seeded and No. 2 state-ranked Zephyrs. “It’s good that we put on a good show.”

New Ulm, which had gone 0-8 in its previous four state tournament appearances, trailed 4-1 late in the second period. But a goal by Jonny Kopacek with 1:20 left in the second and another by Colin Huffman 40 seconds into the third had the Eagles within 4-3.

“Oh yeah, it was game on,” Kraus said. “That’s when we knew that we had a pretty good chance of winning that game.”

Last year, Luverne defeated New Ulm for the Section 3 title and had a respectable showing in a 6-3 loss to eventual runner-up Hermantown. From 2008 to 2013, Section 3 teams lost in the quarterfinals by a combined score of 46-6.

Bright future for Olson

Hill-Murray’s Jacob Olson won the Reed Larson Award, presented to the state’s top senior defenseman. Olson had eight goals and 20 assists in 28 games to rank third on the team and first among Pioneers defensemen in scoring.

Olson will continue his hockey and academic career at Harvard. He is the fourth-highest rated high school prospect in the NHL Central Scouting ranking for the 2015 NHL draft.

Etc.

• Announced attendance for Wednesday’s afternoon session was 5,381 fans, the highest figure since 2008. The evening session drew an announced 4,697.

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