Upsets rule the day in Minnesota high school hockey championships

One Saturday. Two championship games. And a lifetime of memories for hundreds of Minnesota high school hockey players.

The annual 16-team Minnesota Boys’ State Hockey Tournament concluded Saturday with the crowning of two champions in front of a sellout crowd at the Xcel Energey Center. In the opener, the No. 4 Mahtomedi Zephyrs of Class 1A completed their Cinderella story by downing the No. 2 Hermantown Hawks 3-2 in overtime when senior captain Colin Hagstrom converted a centering feed from defensemen JD Metz.

Later in the evening, Hill-Murray — the No. 4 seed from Class 2A — pulled off an upset of their own by cruising to a 4-1 triumph over No. 3 Eden Prairie. Senior center Charlie Strobel scored twice for the Pioneers, who never trailed after opening the scoring early in the first period.

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The win for Mahtomedi marked the first state title in school history. The Zephyrs were the No. 1 seed last year but dropped a heartbreaker in the semifinals to Greenway.

For Hagstrom, it was a fitting end to his high school career after missing most of the season with a broken fibula. He was named the Class A winner of the Herb Brooks Award for displaying character and values throughout his senior season.

“I just got the pass from Metzy and I cut to the middle and just shot it and it went in,” said Hagstrom, who is heading to Notre Dame on a lacrosse scholarship. “It feels unbelievable. It doesn’t feel real. It’s what people dream of.”

The Hawks trailed for most of regulation but forced the extra session in the final minute of the third period when junior Aaron Pionk’s backhander beat goalie Ben Dardis.

Most of the play throughout the match was spent inside the Mahtomedi end, but Dardis stood up to the challenge. He finished with 40 saves, although his own team went the first 13 minutes of the third without registering a shot of its own. Most of the Hermantown shots, however, were from the outside.

“There was a lot of bending and not breaking” Mahtomedi head coach Jeff Poeschl said. “Even though the puck was in our end an awful lot tonight, we knew that it was the kind of game we would have to play to win.”

Hill-Murray are no strangers to the state tournament. The Pioneers previously won championships in 1983, 1991, and 2008.

In this year’s tournament, the Pioneers’ attack was fueled by the strong two-way play of Strobel and the dizzying playmaking and speed of sophomore Nick Pierre. Strobel’s father, Mark, played for the Hill-Murray squad who won in 1991. Goalie Remington Keopple made 21 saves to pick up the win. He was named to the all-tournament team.

“We’re 2020 state high school champions” said Strobel. “We can live with that the rest of our lives and that’s the best feeling in the world right now.”

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