The scores from the Class 1A boys’ hockey state tournament trickled in throughout Wednesday.
St. Cloud Cathedral 11, Mankato East/Loyola 2
Hermantown 7, Monticello 1
Warroad 9, Hutchinson 3
Each of those games included running time in the third period when the leads reached six goals. Mahtomedi’s late-night rally from a one-goal third-period deficit to a 5-2 win over Delano was the day’s only tight game.
As often is the case in Class 1A, the quarterfinals turned into mismatches as the top three seeds exerted their will on the unseeded. And with those results came the annual question: Can’t we get better first-round matchups at state?
Sure, but the tradeoff might be having lopsided games during Friday’s semifinals in front of a large crowd at Xcel Energy Center rather than during Wednesday’s lesser-attended sessions.
The Minnesota State High School League began seeding teams for the state tournament in 2007 – first the top four, now the top five – and the benefit was on display Wednesday. Had there been predetermined draws as there were pre-2007, maybe we would’ve seen Warroad vs. Hermantown and Hutchinson vs. Monticello in openers.
Top-seeded Warroad, No. 2 St. Cloud Cathedral and No. 3 Hermantown posted those blowouts Wednesday, and the result is a couple of compelling semifinal matchups on Friday. Cathedral, the defending state champion that features Division I-commitmented players such as forward Jack Smith (Minnesota Duluth) and Nate Warner (Gophers), meets Hermantown, led by UMD-bound Mr. Hockey candidate Blake Biondi. In the second semifinal, Warroad and forward Grant Slukynsky, who hung a hat trick and four assists on Hutchinson, meets fourth-seeded Mahtomedi, which showed its resiliency vs. Delano.
Hutchinson coach Matt Telecky acknowledged that his team was aware it was on the big stage.
“I could see on the blue line during the national anthem -- a lot of wide eyes,’’ Telecky said. “… We were hoping for a better showing, but sometimes things don’t go your way.’’
Sure, seeing a trio of blowouts to open the tournament isn’t what any fan wants, but it’s the reality in an event that features sections of differing hockey strength. The Minnesota State High School League has among its bedrocks the approach that different parts of the state should be represented in state tournaments through section qualifying. That’s to be applauded. The tradeoff is that it’s difficult to achieve complete parity among the eight hockey sections. Some sections simply will produce better teams than others, and history keeps proving that.
Wednesday showed us the power that Warroad, St. Cloud Cathedral and Hermantown can wield. They rolled through their section games by a combined score of 69-4 and kept up that dominance in St. Paul by a combined 27-6. We took our medicine on Wednesday, but a promising semifinal round on Friday is the reward.