The Lakeville North Panthers are perfect.
A 4-1 victory against a spirited Duluth East team in Saturday’s Class 2A boys’ hockey state championship game made Lakeville North the 17th team in tournament history to go undefeated, the 13th large-school or single class team to finish without a tie – first since the 1992-93 Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars.
The game was played before an announced Xcel Energy Center crowd of 19,495 fans, a Saturday evening session record.
The line of brothers Nick, Jack and Ryan Poehling, contributed two goals and four assists, maintaining their place as catalysts for a talent-laden team.
Unseeded Duluth East scrapped its way to the title game, taking out No. 3 seed St. Thomas Academy and handing No. 2 Edina just its second loss all season. The Greyhounds were methodical and patient, willing to trade puck possession and large numbers of shots on goal for capitalizing at opportune moments. Their leaders, Nick Altmann and Brian Bunten, were the hardest-working captains Mike Randolph ever coached.
Lakeville North countered with poise of its own and the confidence of going into 30 previous games this season and coming out with a victory each time. Among the Panthers’ victims was Duluth East. They won 2-1 on Jan. 13 in Lakeville, outshooting the Greyhounds 41-20.
On Saturday, a Greyhounds team which preys on opponents’ mistakes made the first one.
A defenseman misfired on his clearing attempt and Lakeville North’s Nick Poehling pounced.
Gathering the puck inside the Greyhounds’ zone, he turned and passed to younger brother Ryan.
Though “sick as a dog” according to coach Trent Eigner, Ryan Poehling shot from the high slot and beat the goaltender for a 1-0 lead at 12:33 of the first period.
A Poehling-to-Poehling power-play goal built a 2-0 Lakeville North lead at 1:16 of the second period.
Nick Poehling wiggled parallel to the blue line, throwing a puck toward the Greyhounds’ goal. Twin brother Jack changed the puck’s flight plan with his stick blade, sending it under the goalie.
Defenseman Angelo Altavilla picked the right time to get involved in the offense. Skating in from the blue line, he took a Nick Poehling pass and fired the puck into an open net.
Duluth East came back from three-goal deficits in the quarterfinals against St. Thomas Academy but could find similar magic against the Panthers. A third-period goal by Ryan Peterson sparked the Greyhounds’ faithful but Duluth East got no closer.
Despite getting the wealth of attention, the Poehling brothers endear themselves to talented teammates by playing hard and without regard for individual reward. The trio combined for 86 goals and 111 assists this season, most notably the first two goals Saturday.
The Poehlings, who all committed to play at St. Cloud State, are joined by Division I-bound teammates Jack McNeely (Nebraska-Omaha) and future Gophers’ teammates Jack Sadek and Ryan Edquist. In addition, defenseman Angelo Altavilla will play baseball for Nebraska.
East Grand Forks 5, Hermantown 4
Tanner Tweten scored with 4:26 remaining in overtime as East Grand Forks won its second straight state Class 1A championship by beating Hermantown 5-4 in a wildly entertaining title game rematch on Saturday the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Hermantown, with goaltender Luke Olson pulled in favor of an extra skater, scored twice on shots from the blue line in the final 33 seconds to force the extra session.
Junior defenseman Eric Gotz sent the game into overtime with his blast that sailed through heavy traffic and between East Grand Forks goaltender Josh Weber’s legs with 15.9 seconds left. Defenseman Wyatt Aamodt had pulled the Hawks to within 4-3 with 33 seconds left with his point shot.
Tweten one-timed a loose puck in the high slot past Olson’s catching glove to give the Green Wave their second state title in school history.
The loss was the No. 1-seeded and No. 1-ranked Hawks’ six straight in the championship game, including last year’s 7-3 loss to the Green Wave (26-4-0). No other team in state history has ever appeared in more than five straight title games. The state title was the second for East Grand Forks.
Senior Austin Monda scored twice, and senior Dixon Bowen had a goal and two assists for the Green Wave.
Monda’s breakaway goal 4:04 into the third period capped the scoring and regained the two-goal cushion the No. 3-seeded Green Wave had lost after scoring twice to open the game.
Tweten and Monda scored to give the Green Wave a 2-0 lead through the first period. Hermantown (27-3-1) answered with goals by ParkerHawk and Nate Pionk in the second to tie it at 2 with 4:02 left in the period.
Bowen scored the winner by banging home a rebound near the right post after linemate Grant Loven crashed the net, colliding with Hermantown’s Nate Pionk and Luke Olson in the process.
Monda, who scored three goals in the tournament for 12 this season, beat Olson with a forehand-backhand deke on his third-period breakaway.
Olson finished with 20 saves. East Grand Forks senior goaltender Josh Weber made 27 stops.