Mahtomedi breaks through, wins first title

by Pete Waggoner

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St. Paul, MN  - Colin Hagstrom had an incredible day from Xcel Energy Center, netting  the game winner, assisting on another, and winning the Herb Brooks Award that capped off a senior year which was plagued with a broken fibula.  He didn’t return to the lineup until January 28th, 2020 and wound up being the hero and cementing his name in Mahtomedi hockey forever.  His heroics captured the Minnesota State High School League Boys’s Hockey Class A Championship with a heart stopping 3-2 overtime win over the Hermantown Hawks. 

“The Herb Brooks award is a snapshot of Colin,” Mahtomedi Head Coach Jeff Poeshl said. “He persevered.  He was at every single practice, every team meeting, he was on the bench filling water bottles.  When he had a boot on he was shooting pucks.  You’d come over to the bench at practice and he’d lean over the boards and he would ask someone to pass with him.  He was involved with that broken fibula the whole way.  I don’t know if he was more excited when he stepped on the ice or if we were.  We were all so happy to have him back.  Just a fitting, fitting finish to his senior year.”

Hagstrom’s goal came  on a gorgeous feed from  the bottom of the left circle by  JD Metz.  With a Hermantown player covering Metz tightly he feathered a pass to Hagstrom who was alone  in the slot.  Hagstreom caught the hard pass and shot it over the glove of Hermantown goalie Jacob Backstrom.  The win was indeed surprising to the high school hockey world and after a 9-2 loss to the Hawks earlier in the year, not many gave the Zephyrs a chance except perhaps, the Zeyphyrs.   

“This team does not even resemble the team that played in December against this Hermantown team that pounded us 9-2,” Poeshl said. 

Offense wins games and defense wins championships.  Well, special teams and goaltending also bring home hardware. That was the case with the Mahtomedi Zephyrs who surprised the Hawks with a pair of power play goals, one in the first period off a deflection by  Metz and one in the second period by Ethan Peterson on a feed from Metz allowing Mahtomedi to open up a 2-0 lead for the Zephyrs, stunning the Hawks. Metz finished the game with 3 assists while Peterson (1g-1a) and Hagstrom (1g-1a) each had two point games for Mahtomedi. 

The Hawks pushed back with the muscle one would expect, outshooting the Hawks 10-2 in the second period, scoring a goal by Drew Sams.  The Hawks continued their forward push on the Zephyrs net, but sure handed goalie Ben Dardis stayed on this game making 40 saves to preserve the win.  He faced 23 shots in the third period alone and with the help from his team blocking shots and taking hits to clear the zone. 

“Certainly, there was a lot of bending and not breaking,” Poeschl said.  “If you look at the game, we are not going to be able to go toe-to-toe with Hermantown.  We’re not going to come out on top in a track meet.  We executed our game plan to a t.  We knew that we were going to have to take time and space away from them, eliminate odd man rushes.  I don’t remember an odd man rush and grade a’s there were a handful.  When they did get them, the gentleman who just entered the room (Ben Dardis) was square to the puck and just made the saves.  Even though the puck was in our end an awful lot tonight, we knew that that was the kind of game that we were going to have to play.”

With :22 the Hawks broke through with goalie Jacob Backstrom pulled in lieu of  a six-on-five, Colin Hagstrom scored on a shot from the right faceoff circle to tie the game at 2 sending the Xcel Energy Center crowd into a frenzy.  As the Hawks celebrated their new life wildly, the Zephyrs sagged.  The Hawks worked to finish in the final 22 seconds of the third period but the Zephyrs fought back.  

Even though Mahtomedi was outshot, at one point they had 11 scoring chances and 11 shots, a remarkable number.  They rode the offensive playmaking of Metz, the crafty play of Johnson, and the clutch play and leadership of Hagstrom who delivered for his team in the clutch.  The Zephyrs were 2-4 with the power play and killed off all three of Hermantown’s power plays.  Coupled with sturdy defensive zone coverage and key goaltending the Zephyrs held off a Hermantown team that was loaded with talent and experience. 

It is critical to show a short term memory and be able to bounce back after working to fend off the ferocious challenge of the Hawks.  To Poeshl, his Zephyrs had been doing that all year long. 

"That’s the amazing thing about this team, Poeshl said.  “They weren’t down.  I’ve coached for 27 years, and there have been a lot of highs and lows.  You know you can read a team and there was never that feeling of oh man, now we don’t have a chance.  There was never that sense on the bench.  It was just  alright, we’re gonna get after it and we are going to need to score another goal. The resilience of this team was unbelievable.”

Mahtomedi advanced to the state final for the first time in school history in their 12th attempt (10 with Poeshl at the helm). This year marked the fourth straight year the Zephyrs have qualified for the state tournament and for popular coach Poeschl, he captured his first title in his 27th year behind the bench. 

When asked if it was worth the wait on earning their first state title Poeshl said, “Absolutely, the previous ten times were great experiences also.  I’m just happy for these guys that they can make history in Mahtomedi hockey.”