Mahtomedi completes its 2018 Class 1A state tournament redemption tour this week against an opponent it lost to in the third-place game last March: Hermantown.
More importantly, it gives the Zephyrs a chance to prove themselves against some of the state's top competition.
The No. 6-1A Zephyrs (14-3-1, 6-2-1) have stumbled to date against top-tier opponents. They recorded a 4-1 defeat to No. 7-2A St. Thomas Academy on Jan. 5 and fell 5-1 to No. 5-1A Totino-Grace on Jan. 22. They also lost 4-3 to No. 9-2A Hill-Murray on Dec. 4 before tying the Pioneers 2-2 on Jan. 12 in the rematch.
Mahtomedi gets No. 8-1A Orono (which defeated the Zephyrs in the state semifinals last year) Thursday, and later this season plays at St. Thomas Academy and hosts St. Cloud Cathedral in February, however, a victory against No. 1-1A Hermantown offers the Zephyrs most impressive potential win of the bunch.
Mahtomedi is outscoring opponents by more than four goals per game, indicating it's the kind of team that should be able to top another contender.
Zephyr goaltenders Ben Dardis and John Poirer have been dominant most of the season, helping Mahtomedi post a 1.67 goals-against average, sixth-best in the state and just 0.09 behind Class 1A-leading St. Cloud Cathedral. The duo have struggled against elite competition, however. Dardis (1.60 GAA; four shutouts) leads the team in minutes in net, but was pulled against Totino-Grace after giving up four goals, and gave up four more against St. Thomas Academy. Poirer (1.79 GAA; two shutouts) gave up four in the 4-3 loss to Hill-Murray in December’s matchup.
Hermantown is rounding into form, with six wins and a draw to open 2019, and Mahtomedi offers a chance for the Hawks to bolster their case for the top overall seed at the Class 1A state tournament.
This is likely the most challenging game left on Hermantown’s schedule, and the Hawks (13-3-1, 2-0) have fared well recently against other top-tier teams. They earned a 2-1 overtime win at No. 2-1A St. Cloud Cathedral on Jan. 4 and rallied from a three-goal deficit to secure a 3-3 tie with No. 1-2A Minnetonka on Jan. 12.
Blake Biondi, a Minnesota-Duluth commit, has been clutch in the new year, with 15 goals in his last seven games, and assisting on Joey Pierce’s overtime game-winner against St. Cloud Cathedral. Biondi scored twice against Minnetonka — including the game-tying goal, with 1 minute, 14 seconds left in regulation.