Hermantown’s Jared Thomas scored an early goal on Thief River Falls goalie Jon Narverud. His second goal of the game, in the third period, came on a deflected pass.
Jared Thomas hears it brought up once in a while. Sometimes highlight films bring him face-to-face with the painful memories.
For two years, Thomas, a senior forward from Hermantown and one of 10 Mr. Hockey finalists, has watched fluke goals end his season in the Class 1A boys' hockey tournament championship game.
Two years ago, a puck glanced in off a Breck player's shin pad late in regulation. Last season, a St. Thomas Academy shot from the point found its mark in overtime.
Hermantown battled back this season, putting together a program-best 30 victories and no losses or ties. But the Hawks are accustomed to being good. It is luck they have lacked.
They found some in Friday's semifinal against Thief River Falls. Thomas was credited with the eventual game-winning goal after his pass bounced off the skate of a Prowlers defender and into the net. Hermantown closed out a 3-2 victory and set up a title-game rematch with St. Thomas Academy.
"It was a fortunate bounce for us," Thomas said. "Finally we get one here."
Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said his team, which overcame a 2-1 deficit in the third period Friday, is loaded with guys "who are mentally strong kids. We get better when we have adversity."
If resiliency fuels performance, it's little wonder why the Hawks are back for a third title shot. Climbing the ladder after two falls has not deterred these players.
"It's the nature of the game," senior defenseman Jared Kolquist said. "A lot of championship games are won by a fluke goal or a silly bounce."
Hermantown last won a state title in 2007. Since then, trips to the Xcel Energy Center have brought the Hawks only to the edge of ecstasy.
"We played our best game of the year last year and we lost," Plante said. "Two years ago we played our best game of the year and lost. To win [Saturday] we have to play our best game of the year. And hopefully some things go our way."
Hermantown's penchant for bad luck crept into Friday's game as Thief River Falls forward Logan Engelstad buried the rebound of his own shot off the post for a 2-1 lead.
Undaunted, the Hawks roared back exactly one minute later as Kolquist tied the score 2-2. Then Thomas got the type of bounce that has so often deflated the Hawks.
"I just hope someone on our team has at least one of those left in them," Thomas said.