The collision shook the boards and sent the Plexiglass swaying. Boom!
Mighty Casey, meet Hammerin’ Hank.
The close encounter between Eden Prairie’s Casey Mittelstad and Wayzata’s Hank Sorensen came on the game’s opening shift, the first of many run-ins between the pair in Saturday’s state Class 2A championship game featuring the uniquely exceptional talents for each team.
Sorensen, Wayzata’s designated shut-down defenseman and a top Division I college prospect, sent Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie’s top scorer and projected first-round NHL draft pick, hobbling to the bench after that initial hit in the Trojans’ eventual 5-3 victory.
Mittelstadt took a quick breather, dismissed a line of questioning from the Eagles’ trainer and didn’t miss a shift. He looked to be functioning at top speed the rest of the game, and tied the score at 1-1 on a rebound flip with 7:37 left in the period.
“I’m not going to change how I play if he’s on the ice,” Mittelstadt said about Sorensen. “I don’t care if I get hacked or slashed. I’m going to keep going to the net.”
Sorensen gave Mittelstadt, a University of Minnesota recruit, an after-the-whistle jab late in the first period. Just a friendly love tap. Sorensen admitted he tried to get under Mittelstadt’s skin with some on-ice chatter as well.
“Yeah,” Sorensen said. “But nothing I can repeat right here.”
Lindberg just in time
Down two goals to Hermantown in the waning moments of the first period, Breck hoped to get to the locker room without further damage done.
James Lindberg had another thought as he found himself alone with the puck deep in Mustangs territory.
“I just saw a little hole up top and I figured, ‘I might as well go for it. It’s the state championship game,’ ” said Lindberg, a senior winger.
Pinpoint accuracy gave Hermantown a 3-0 lead with five seconds remaining. A team desperate to end its six-year run of second-place finishes needed every available emotional boost.
“It was pretty big lift, I guess,” Lindberg said. “You know how they say a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey.”
Three-goal deficits aren’t good for much, either.
“That hurts,” Breck coach Les Larson said. “It always hurts at the end of the period.”
Hermantown coach Bruce Plante, who had the last change, matched Breck’s third line with his own. Scoring key goals usually isn’t the job of a third line, but Plante wasn’t surprised to see Lindberg and company deliver.
“That line has had some big goals for us in the playoffs, a lot of good-timing goals,” Plante said.
Lindberg scored twice at the state tournament and finished the season with eight goals.
Talking hair, hockey
Hermantown defenseman Wyatt Aamodt was answering questions from ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose. The topic, naturally, turned to hair.
Melrose, known for his old-school mullet, asked Aamodt, also sporting long, flowing locks, if the Hawks’ hairstyles (most Hermantown players have shoulder-length hair) might have had anything to do with their 5-0 victory over Breck.
“I’d like to think so,” Aamodt, a senior, said with a laugh, adding that there was a time when Plante didn’t allow players to have hair long enough to flow outside their helmets.
Melrose was shocked. “That’s an about-face to what you guys are doing now,” he said. “What happened?”
“I don’t know, maybe Coach is getting soft as he gets older,” Aamodt said as Plante stood nearby.