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'It has been an awesome tournament'

By Loren Nelson, special to the Star Tribune, 03/14/17, 5:15PM CDT


The margin of victory is the lowest in more than a decade.

Grand Rapids forward Gavin Hain celebrates his first-period goal against Moorhead during the Class 2A championship game Saturday (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune)

There were upsets, overtimes, record crowds and razor-thin victory margins, and two victory celebrations in a single championship game.

This year’s boys’ hockey state tournament was drenched in so much drama, many longtime observers wondered aloud, “Is this the best tournament ever?”

“It has been an awesome tournament,” Grand Rapids coach Trent Klatt said. “There haven’t been any easy games for anybody.”

Entering Saturday’s Class 2A championship game between Grand Rapids and Moorhead, the combined margin of victory in championship-round games in both tournament classes — 10 goals in Class 1A, 11 goals in Class 2A — was the lowest in more than decade.

“That kind of has been the story of the year — parity,” Moorhead coach Jon Ammerman said. “Hockey is getting better everywhere, it’s not just the traditional powers.”

The upper levels of Xcel Energy Center were opened for Class 1A games on Friday and Saturday for just the second and third times since it has been hosting the tournament. Attendance records were set both days.

“I’d say both classes of the tournament have made it great overall because of the quality of the games,” said Lou Nanne, back to call state tournament games on television for the 54th year. “They’ve all been so close.”

In 14 championship-round games in the two classes, only three games were decided by more than two goals. And empty-net goals were scored in all three.

Hermantown, the overwhelming favorite to win a second consecutive Class 1A title, was pushed to overtime three times. In the championship, the Hawks needed two winning goals — the first was waved off for goaltender interference — to defeat upstart Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake in two overtimes.

Lower-seeded teams won five of the combined eight quarterfinal games. Fifth-seeded Grand Rapids registered three upsets en route to the Class 2A title.

Staff writer David La Vaque contributed to this report

Saturday Recap

The quote
“You grow up watching high school hockey as a young kid, and you just kind of dream that one day you are going to be there, let alone score the game-winning goal.’’ -- Hermantown senior defenseman Dylan Samberg

Favorite tourney moment

David La Vaque: Three of four Moorhead goals against Hill-Murray were beauties. Stone cold snipes. None better than Jack Stetz’s shorthanded effort. That performance validated everything us metro folks heard about the Spuds as a serious title contender.

Loren Nelson: St. Cloud Cathedral coach Derrick Brown flipping the game puck to Hermantown’s Ryan Sandelin after the Hawks senior forward scored four goals, including the winner in overtime, in the teams’ Class 1A semifinal.

Attendance for Saturday’s evening session was announced at 19,109. The afternoon session drew an announced crowd of 9,367, topping the previous high of 8,037 in 2012, according to the Minnesota State High School League records.

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