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Hermantown versus Mahtomedi rivalry all revved up

By Loren Nelson, Legacy Hockey, 03/08/24, 6:30PM CST


Hawks and Zephyrs add another chapter to their recent history of thrill-a-minute matchups

Hermantown and Mahtomedi have played a series of tight games in the state Class 1A tournament, dating to the 2020 title game. Photo by Jeff Lawler,

Hermantown versus Mahtomedi has become of the state’s preeminent state tournament rivalries. 

In the early years it was International Falls and St. Paul Johnson routinely butting heads in St. Paul. Then Grand Rapids and Edina followed by Burnsville versus Hill-Murray. Hermantown and St. Thomas Academy sparred in some wildly entertaining matchups in the early 2010s.

And now the Hawks have a new antagonist in the Zephyrs.

“They’ve ripped my heart out down in this exact situation the last two times we’ve played them,” Hermantown coach Pat Andrews said Friday after the Hawks prevailed over the Zephyrs 7-6 in overtime in a wildly entertaining and unpredictable state Class 1A semifinal at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Mahtomedi beat Hermantown 2-1 on a goal with 48 seconds left in last year's tourney semifinals. The Zephyrs went on to win their second title in four years. Mahtomedi beat Hermantown 3-2 in overtime for the 2020 state championship.

There’s something about the Hawks that brings out the best in the Zephyrs. And vice versa.

“They are a really fast team, and so are we,” Mahtomedi’s Cole Swanson said. “We both play similar styles. Pretty gritty, simple hockey. 

“It’s almost like we are playing against our own team … .”

The departure of St. Thomas Academy to Class 2A a decade ago left an opeing for the small-school team fans most love to hate. Hermantown, with its routine trips to the tournament and back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017, filled that void nicely. After winning last year’s state tournament Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl wondered out loud if the most-hated torch might someday be passed to the Zephyrs.

Friday’s game had all the elements of an all-time classic. A hat trick (Hermantown’s A.J. Francisco), a huge comeback (Mahtomedi trailed 4-0 after the first), brilliant saves (despite the combined 13 goals), a handful of spectacular goals and, of course, overtime.

Andrews spent part of Wednesday talking about the Hawks’ defense-first identity. Just like Mahtomedi. So the combined 13 goals was certainly an unexpected twist.

“Who would have thought that game would be 7-6, with the way our two teams are built,” Andrews said. “They just made great plays, and we did, too.”

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