A pair of goals 68 seconds apart during the third period put upset-minded Thief River Falls ahead by a goal against No. 1 seed Hermantown.
“Our gas tank was full at that point,” Prowlers coach Tim Bergland said.
But at the same time, it revved Hermantown’s engines for a wild ride toward the final horn.
“It fueled our competitive spirit,” Hawks coach Bruce Plante said.
Jared Kolquist pulled Hermantown back even with its northern Minnesota counterpart exactly a minute later, and a fluky goal by Jared Thomas wound up being the difference in a 3-2 Class 1A state semifinal victory by the Hawks.
“We had a rough day getting our legs going,” Plante said. “It took something like [the Prowlers’ second goal] to percolate us. It was a battle til the end. Those are some hard, tough-nosed kids.
“We started banging guys around a little bit, and that helped. Once we started doing that, things started going a little better for us.”
The mood was understandably more dour in the other locker room after the game-winning goal was scored by Thomas with 5:15 left in the game. It came when his harmless centering pass from the half wall toward the Prowlers’ net careened off a defender’s skate and by an unsuspecting Jon Narverud in goal.
“It looked like it was going to go wide so that’s why I followed with it,” a dejected Narverud explained later. “All of the sudden the crowd goes wild. Wasn’t much I could do.”
Thomas was equally surprised.
“I just wanted to turn around and throw it quickly to [teammate Chris Benson] and it ended up going off that skate,” he said. “Fortunate bounce for us. I’ll take it any way I can get it, I guess.”
Thomas also scored Hermantown’s first goal of the game. It gives the Mr. Hockey candidate 30 goals to match his undefeated, untied team’s school-record 30 wins heading into Saturday’s Class 1A championship game rematch with defending champion St. Thomas Academy.
“Some guys can’t throw a puck into the ocean,” Plante said. “Goal scorers score goals. His [game-winner] was a great play. We tell the guys to throw it to the net anyway they can and hope for the bounce. It was nice to get that.”
-- Brian Stensaas, Star Tribune staff writer
Jared Kolquist is a warrior, the never-been-questioned heart and soul of the top-seeded Hermantown hockey team.
So when fourth-seeded Thief River Falls quickly erased a 1-0 Hawks’ lead and turned it into a 2-1 Prowlers advantage early in the third period of the second Class 1A semifinal on Friday, March 9, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, guess who was there to answer the bell.
With the Hermantown third line pressing to reverse the tide of momentum sweeping over Thief River Falls, Kolquist stood at the point in the offensive zone, saw a puck squirt up the slot and raced in to grab it.
Just like that, only a minute after Hermantown's magical season was put into jeopardy, Kolquist pulled his team up by the bootstraps and got it back into the game.
Hawks' coach Bruce Plante wasn’t surprised at all.
“That’s why (Kolquist) is special. No way he’s going to let anyone or any coach back off,” said Plante after Kolquist's goals sparked the Hawks come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Prowlers to force their way into a third straight state championship game. “He leads us that way. He’s got a heart as big as this room. He helps us so much as coaches. In the locker room or in the ice, he just went down there and hammered it home.”
Hermantown defenseman Jared Kolquist (16) celebrates his game-tying goal in the third period. Photo by Helen Nelson.
The script written by the hockey gods is a familiar one for Hermantown this year, a group that hasn’t given up on any shift, any period or any game all season.
If the Hawks get scored on, they bounce back.
If the Hawks trail in a game, they muscle their way back out front.
Same old story. Different stage.
“When there’s adversity or someone ties us up, we seem to come right back after that faceoff,” Plante said. “We’ve done that countless times this year. We don’t give into it.”
Another Hermantown senior captain, Jared Thomas, knocked a centering pass off of a Thief River Falls defender five minutes later to put the Hawks in front for good.
"Some guys can't throw it in the ocean," Plante said of Thomas' goal. "You know how goal scorers are. They just have that knack."
Now, with one game left in the season and a perfect 30-0-0 record, all that stands between Hermantown and an unbeaten year and a state title is St. Thomas Academy. Last year, the Cadets rallied to beat Hermantown in overtime to claim the Class 1A championship.
It was Hermantown’s second straight runner up finish.
All the more motivation to come out tomorrow and put it all on the line.
“We certainly want to get revenge. Being here twice and losing so close games, we want revenge,” said Kolquist, one of several players who have been on the short end of the title game both years. “We’re going to do whatever it takes tomorrow to get over that hump and win the championship.”
“Most the guys on the locker room were on that team last year, and they all have a sour taste in their mouth,” he said. “We want another shot, and we have that tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.”
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff
Hawk's Jared Thomas (10) celebrates afer scoring the winning goal against Thief River Falls. Photo by Helen Nelson
With the state Class 1A semifinal between unbeaten and top-seeded Hermantown and fourth-seeded Thief River Falls tied late in the third period, Hawks’ senior Jared Thomas centered the puck in hopes of a teammate scoring the go-ahead goal.
Things didn’t go according to plan. Thomas will take it, though.
His blind centering pass deflected off a Thief River Falls defenseman and into the Prowlers’ net for the eventual game-winning goal that would be credited to Thomas.
For Hermantown coach Bruce Plante, there wasn’t any surprise when he saw who scored the goal to put the Hawks in the Class 1A title game for the third year in a row.
“No, not at all,” Plante said. “You know how goal scorers are -- they just throw anything out there and it goes in sometimes. They just have that knack. It just happens for them. Some guys, they can't throw it in the ocean.
“I don't know why that is but it's been that way forever -- goal scorers score goals.”
With 83 points on the year (30 goals, 53 assists), Thomas is no stranger to finding his name on the score sheet. But his goal was more than just another point.
“I was just happy we had the lead back,” Thomas said. “We lost (the lead) and I was like I gotta do something here. I wasn't out there the next shift and (Jared) Kolquist scored so I was like alright on my next shift I'm going to do something. So that third period I was just trying to throw everything in the net.”
Thomas’ efforts in the game and the season have paid off as the Mr. Hockey finalist and the undefeated Hawks will face St. Thomas Academy in the Class 1A championship game – a rematch of last year’s title tilt.
With all 10 finalists of the award for the state’s top senior making an appearance in the state tournament, Thomas hasn’t disappointed, scoring six points (four goals, two assists) in Hermantown’s two games.
Plante thinks that Thomas compares well with every other finalist.
“I haven't seen hardly any of these guys much play,” Plante said of the other Mr. Hockey finalists. “So I really can't say much about that. I know they're great players. I've heard about them. I've seen them at (the) Elite League a little bit. I know Judd Peterson -- he's a hell of a player -- and the two (Duluth) East kinds are really very good players. I think Jared fits in with all those guys.
“Jared's a good player and he can certainly compete with any player in Minnesota.”
On an undefeated team with several seniors, theoretically any of the Hawks could have been a finalist. But instead of being bitter, the Hermantown seniors keep things light.
“I try not to think about it,” Thomas said. “Some of the guys in the locker room make fun of me about it and they call me (Mr. Hockey) now and I'm just like, ‘Stop. Just call me my name.’ I'm just trying to win a championship. I don't want to get second three years in a row.”
“We put so much into this season and then being champion would mean 31-0,” Thomas said. “(It’s) never been done in Hermantown. That would just be the greatest thing for the senior year. Coming back I had the option to leave but I knew we had a good team and I'm so glad I came back. I don't have any regrets for it.
“I'd for sure be a Class 1A champion over Mr. Hockey. It'd be unreal.”
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff
Evan Ose (10) pushes the puck toward Hermantown goaltender Matt Mensinger. Photo by Helen Nelson.
Early in the third period an upset looked possible.
After nearly forty minutes of hard-fought hockey, fourth-seeded Thief River Falls had tied the Class 1A semifinal tilt against unbeaten and top-seeded Hermantown at one-all thanks to a goal from Austin Odberg. The Hawks' perfect season was in jeopardy.
Just over a minute later it was more than possible.
The upset was squarely in the Prowlers’ cross-hairs as Logan Engelstad scored to snare a one-goal lead at 5 minutes, 16 seconds of the third.
Exactly a minute later it was gone.
Hermantown’s Jared Kolquist scored the tying goal, followed by a fluky goal off a Prowlers’ skate credited to Jared Thomas.
Thief River Falls’ fragile lead disappeared just as quickly as it had been built. For Engelstad, seeing the lead slip away was more than tough to handle.
“Yeah it definitely felt like things were starting to turn, the momentum was coming our way,” Engelstad said. They kept fighting back and it turned out how it did.”
The Prowlers brought their ‘A’ game to the Xcel Energy Center Friday and held a third period lead on Hermantown, a feat not accomplished by many. The tight game felt like it could tip in either direction, even though most would have assumed a Hermantown victory.
“I thought both teams were there for a reason,” Thief River Falls coach Tim Bergland said after the game. “Both teams played well defensively and limited quality chances and those danger areas and they did the same.”
As if it wasn’t painful enough, losing a lead to Hermantown isn’t a new story to Thief River Falls. Back in late December at their holiday tournament, the Prowlers held a 1-0 lead heading into the third. Hermantown answered by netting three unanswered and crushing the Prowlers’ hopes.
“In our Christmas tournament we were up one nothing going into the third,” Bergland said. We ended up sitting back and trying to sit on the lead, and against a team like that they eat you up.”
The silver lining for Thief River Falls is that the Prowlers will get an opportunity to claim their second consecutive victory in the third-place game at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 10 at the X, following up their win over Hibbing/Chisholm last season.
“Heartbreaking you know,” senior forward Riley Soderstrom said. “Just have to bounce back again like we did after last year, come back to play a good game tomorrow.”
-- Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff
Jake Zeleznikar (4) is one of several heavy-hitting Hermantown defensemen. Photo by Helen Nelson.
A fortunate bounce allowed No. 1 Hermantown to edge No. 4 Thief River Falls by a 3-2 score in Friday’s second Class 1A state tournament semifinal, moving the undefeated Hawks into Saturday’s championship game for the third consecutive season.
The Hawks (30-0) get a rematch with St. Thomas Academy. The Cadets survived a 3-0 deficit in the first period last year and won 5-4 in overtime.
Jared Thomas scored twice against Thief River Falls, tallying the game’s first goal at 6:34 of the opening period and getting credit for a goal that deflected in off a Prowlers’ defender at 11:45 of the third period. That goal held up as the game winner.
Limited to just nine shots and no goals through two periods, Thief River Falls erupted for two quick third period goals to grab a lead and threaten the upset.
Riley Soderstrom forced a Hermantown turnover at the red line, then got the puck to Austin Odberg for a goal at 4:08. Logan Engelstad buried the rebound of his own shot off the post at 5:16 and gave his Prowlers a 2-1 lead.
Exactly one minute later, Hermantown’s Jared Kolquist snuck a puck through traffic to tie the game 2-2.
-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune staff writer
1. Jared Thomas, Hermantown
The University of Minnesota-Duluth recruit is making the state tournament his highlight reel for his Mr. Hockey candidacy after scoring two more goals in a 3-2 victory over Thief River Falls. Thomas opened the scoring at 6 minutes, 34 seconds of the first period and ended it at 11 minutes, 45 seconds of the third. His second goal was the game-winner, coming on a seeing-eye shot from the far right half wall that deflected off a Prowlers' defender.
2. Jared Kolquist, Hermantown
It can only be Jared. Hermantown's other named star player gave his club a huge boost just minutes after Thief River Falls had rallied for a 2-1 lead in the third period. From his defensive position, Kolquist jumped up into the play, slapping in a rebound from the slot to tie the game with 10 minutes, 44 seconds remaining.
3. Riley Soderstrom, Thief River Falls
The Prowlers most dangerous offensive player had his chances, including a heart-stopping, final-second shot to tie the game that was saved by Hawks' goalie Matt Mensinger. Soderstrom fed Austin Odberg for Thief River Falls' first goal at 4 minutes, 8 seconds of the third that tied the game at 1-all. The crafty and slick forward leads the Prowlers with 29 goals and 55 points.
-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA
Class 1A Tournament
Section 8A Playoffs
Class 1A Tournament
Section 5A Playoffs