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Zephyrs cruise past Spartans

Mahtomedi plays catch-up then pulls away to earn trip to state

Mahtomedi’s Jack Becker watches as his shot crosses the goal line for what became the game-winning goal to help the Zephyrs to a 5-2 win over St. Paul Academy in the Section 4A final on Friday night in Roseville. (MHM Photo / Jonathan Watkins)

Mahtomedi plays catch-up then pulls away to earn trip to state

ROSEVILLE – Before the final whistle capping a 5-2 win for Mahtomedi over St. Paul Academy & Summit in the Section 4A final Friday, there were some nerves.

“Absolutely,” said Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl. “There was a lot of emotion in the building.

“That first period was chaos. It was just absolutely chaos.”

At the start, the game was nothing if not physical, and a back-and-forth battle.

St. Paul Academy junior Cullen McCabe got his team on the board, skating around a defender with the puck and driving the net. But the Zephyrs answered 34 seconds later, just eight seconds into their power-play time, with a goal from senior Kellen Campbell assisted by junior Jack Becker.

St. Paul Academy got the lead back a couple minutes later on a second-effort goal from sophomore Noel Parker. He shot the puck once, got the lose rebound in the slot and buried it for the 2-1 advantage.

Then Mahtomedi scored twice within 52 seconds, spread out between the end of the first and start of the second periods, to tie the game and then take a 3-2 lead.

They didn’t look back.

The quick goals started with Campbell, who scored his second of the night shorthanded with 13 seconds left in the first period to tie it at two goals apiece. The puck came to the corner for Becker, then Campbell jammed away until the puck crossed the line.

“I just shot it five-hole,” Becker said. “It was a good forecheck.”

Then just 39 seconds into the second, it was Becker’s turn. A Spartans power play had just expired when a defender lost the puck at the blue line. Becker picked it up and was off to the races for an unassisted goal and a 3-2 lead.

“That just flushed away all the nerves,” Becker said.

The Zephyrs maintained control and took a two-goal lead on the power play with 6:29 left in the period. Junior Joe Forciea got the goal on a deflection after a point shot from junior Timothy Kuivinen. Junior Jared Fladebo added an empty netter with 40 seconds left.

The Zephyrs return to the state tournament for the first time since 2010 and for their eighth trip overall. They’re searching for their first state title. The goal isn’t to just make it to state, according to Poeschl, they also feel like they have something to prove.

“I’m just so happy for them as a team,” he said.

They haven’t lost since Jan. 8, in an 8-1 defeat at the hands of St. Thomas Academy, which is also headed to the Xcel Energy Center next week.

“It’s amazing,” Becker said. “There are not many words to describe it. You always dream of this moment.”

Heather's love for watching hockey started when the Minnesota Wild came to town in 2000. Before that, she caught a few Minnesota Moose games as a youngster, and more recently she's kept up with the Austin Bruins and Fargo Force. She's a writer, freelance journalist and blogger who previously worked as a news reporter in Austin and Fergus Falls, Minn. She enjoys watching sports and closely follows the Wild, Minnesota Twins, IndyCar Series, tennis and prep sports. Heather keeps up her sports blog Thoughts from the Stands. You can follow her on Twitter/X @hlrule or Instagram @hlrule.

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