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12 seniors, one more shot

By Aaron Paitich, Special to the Star Tribune, 02/03/12, 6:51PM CST


Mahtomedi's senior class wants another chance at state hockey tournament

Mahtomedi's Johno May (12) scored a goal against Simley in a recent game. May is one of 12 seniors who are aching for one more chance to play in the state high school hockey tournament.

Mahtomedi's top line in boys' hockey has experienced the springtime ice at Xcel Energy Center.

Seniors Tanner Jordan, Patrick Kegley and Johno May played in the 2010 Class A state tournament together, a weekend full of highs and lows, punctuated with the heartbreaking 7-6 semifinal overtime loss to Hermantown. The Zephyrs thought they had won in the final second of regulation before the goal was called off and the game headed into extra time.

"Words don't describe those kinds of moments, I guess," said Jordan, who also played in the tournament as a freshman.

An unforgettable moment, for sure, but one he and his fellow teammates would trade in for last year's outcome. They were shut out 4-0 by the eventual state champions from St. Thomas Academy in the Class A Section 4 semifinals.

It was Jordan's first feeling of section dejection. And with 12 seniors on this year's roster, they all felt it.

"I don't think anybody wants that feeling back," Jordan said.

But it's been a bumpy ride for the 2011-2012 East Siders, who have gnawed and clawed their way to their fair share of both victories and defeats. Through Tuesday's 4-1 victory over Spring Lake Park, the Zephyrs sat at 12-8 overall and 6-4 in conference play, good enough to make their presence known in the Classic Suburban, but not good enough to garner a statewide buzz.

While section rivals St. Thomas Academy and Totino-Grace both sport better records than the Zephyrs this year, Mahtomedi is lying in the weeds. Aside from Class 2A Hill-Murray's recent 7-3 victory, coach Jeff Poeschl's team has been in every game but has struggled to pull out big victories.

"We have definitely competed," Poeschl said, citing four one-goal losses and other tight battles. "Now, it's just a matter of finding a way to win one of those tough games."

The tools are there

The high-scoring line of Jordan, Kegley and May has stuck together through thick and thin. They are now entering the home stretch of their senior seasons as one of the state's top scoring threats. Jordan, the table setter, has tallied 19 goals and 27 assists for 46 points. Kegley, the center, flies around the ice, works hard in the corners and has rung up 27 points. May has added 19 goals and 13 assists as a true goal scorer.

Blake Gunderson leads from the back end. His development has sparked offense and steady play from an otherwise young defensive corps. As a junior, Gunderson was timid with the puck, often dumping the puck and passing up shot opportunities.

This season, the sure-handed senior blue liner has two goals and 14 assists as the quarterback of Mahtomedi's top power-play unit. He also brings intangibles as one of the team captains.

Gunderson and the Zephyrs will get another shot at the Cadets as the regular season winds down, but perhaps a bigger rematch will come on a bigger stage: section playoffs. A 5-3 loss to the defending champs earlier this season didn't sit well with the team.

"We're just waiting to play them again," Gunderson said. "We should give them a run for their money."

But first, the Zephyrs have to put together three strong periods on a nightly basis if they ever want to reach the friendly confines of Xcel Energy Center again in March. Poeschl knows they have that ability, but the clock is ticking.

"It's one thing to say that you can and another thing to actually do it," Poeschl said. "We have to put up or shut up."

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