Two firm sweeps of a hockey stick in the span of 11 seconds gave St. Thomas Academy what it needed to put away Hermantown again Saturday in the Class 1A championship at Xcel Energy Center.
Those swats - snap shots by Alex Johnson and Peter Krieger - found the back of the net midway through the second period. Just like that, the Cadets’ lead doubled en route to a 5-1 victory over previously undefeated Hermantown.
“They just took so much away from us,” said Hermantown coach Bruce Plante, whose team won 30 games since a season-ending loss in last year's Class 1A title game against St. Thomas.
The victory was put into motion fewer than three minutes into the game on a Cadets goal from Matt Perry. Johnson popped in his first goal of the game, the eventual game-winner, three minutes later before he started the second period barrage.
The top-seed Hawks never recovered en route to a third straight championship game loss.
“This isn’t how we drew it up for three years,” Hermantown senior forward Jared Thomas said. “Losing three years in a row isn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be a state champion.”
After Saturday, the Cadets are on top for a fourth time in seven years. This installment came from a lock-down defensive team that also flashed solid depth all tournament long.
Goaltender David Zevnik was brilliant again Saturday. He allowed only a powerful second-period slap shot blast by Jared Kolquist through the three-game grind toward a state championship.
The No. 2 seed Cadets finished their season on a 15-game win streak, never allowing more than one goal.
“I tell you, goaltenders can make coaches look like geniuses,” St. Thomas Academy coach Greg Vannelli said. “It’s a coach’s dream to coach a game when you know you’re only going to give up one goal.”
St. Thomas Academy players, though, insist they treated the championship game with caution.
“I definitely felt like we were the underdogs there,” said Johnson, who also had two assists in the game.
The Cadets needed overtime in their section final last week and squeaked out a 1-0 victory over Breck in the state semifinals, leaving Vannelli to say that he was “emotionally drained.”
That was the sentiment from the Hawks as well. They faced a long, quiet bus ride home for a third time in as many years after losses to the Cadets and to Breck two years ago.
“The last three years we’ve been the public schools state champion, so we’ve got that,” Thomas said.