AJ Francisco scored a hattrick in the Hawks’ 7-6 win over Mahtomedi.

Hermantown avoids a Zephyrs surge to win 7-6 in overtime

The defending Class A champions have the daunting task of facing a red-hot Hermantown squad hungry for another state title. The Hawks are looking for their sixth state championship plaque and first since 2022. Hermantown defeated Alexandria in the Quarterfinal round 6-1 and the Zephyrs took down Orono 5-2. 

Hermantown withstood a Mahtomedi comeback surge to take down the Zephyrs 7-6 in an overtime thriller. 

The first period was owned by the Hawks, scoring four unanswered goals and outshooting Mahtomedi 16-5. The Hawks got goals from River Freeman, Jack Slattengren, AJ Francisco, and Weston Bohlman, as the Hawks held a demanding 4-0 lead after two periods. 

Mahtomedi didn’t sit back and let Hermantown do their thing in the second period, Sam Harris got the Zephyrs on the board with a shot assisted by Max Strecker. The momentum started to flow for the defending champions, as they found the back of the net again. Jake Hodd-Chlebeck scored at the 10:05 mark of the middle frame on the power play. 4-2 Mahtomedi clawed their way back into the game. The last thing the Zephyrs could do is give momentum back to the powerhouse Hawks, but that’s what happened. A minor penalty was called on Sam Harris of Mahtomedi, allowing Hermantown to increase their lead, and that’s what they did. AJ Francisco scored his second goal of the game to take back the three-goal lead. The Zephyrs with their backs against the wall again, didn’t quit and scored late in the period. Patrick Egan netted an even-strength goal to end the period down by just two goals, 5-3 Hawks led. 

The Zephyrs carried the second-period momentum into the third frame scoring under three minutes in. Wyatt Tarnowski, who towers over at 6 foot 8 215 pounds sniped top left from the point to get Mahtomedi back now within one goal. Jimmy Egan and Patrick Egan were both credited with the assist. 

Just four minutes later, Hermantown again scored when all the momentum was tilted the other way. The Hawks took back their two-goal lead when AJ Francisco scored a State Tournament hat trick. The Hawks led 6-4 with over 10 minutes remaining in the game.  

With just under nine minutes left in the third period, Winston Wright snuck behind the Hermantown defense and found himself all alone for a breakaway. The Zephyrs forward was denied twice by Hawks goalie Dane Callaway, the score remained 6-4. The Zephyrs pulled their goalie with 1:56 left in the game and it paid off right away. Sam Harris found the back of the net for the second time in and once again the Zephyrs got back within one goal. 6-5 the score was with 54 seconds remaining. After a Hermantown timeout, the comeback kids did it again, Mahtomedi scored their third goal from the point tying the game at 6-6 with under a minute remaining. In an incredible comeback game by Zephyrs, the game would go into overtime.   

The extra frame was filled with action, with chances on both ends but no early success in finding a goal. Dane Callaway had the best save at that point in the period, facing a shot from the high slot but keeping it out of the net with the left pad. Mahtomedi completely flipped the script from the first period to lead in shots 45 to 30 but the four-time champions Hermantown Hawks found a break and sent home the game-winner. 

“I really thought in overtime we were in control and I thought we were gonna win it,” said Zephyrs forward Patrick Egan. 

At the 7:12 mark of the overtime period, River Freeman scored his second of the game, giving the Hawks the 7-6 win over Mahtomedi. 

“I’m so proud of them, what they were able to do today and what they’ve been able to do all year. These boys have been amazing and I’m just so proud of them,” said Andrews.

The Mahtomedi student section was almost twice the size of the Hawks, and it was felt by the Hermantown team, but they didn’t let that get to them. 

“It felt like the whole rink was against us when they scored, but we just stayed composed and played our game,” said Hawks forward AJ Francisco. 

Francisco has five points in his two state tournament games.

The Hawks have suffered losses to Mahtomedi the last two times they have been in the X, so this win felt extra special.

“I have so much respect for that team, and that coach, but you know, they have ripped my heart out twice the last few years, so this felt special,” said Andrews. 

The Hawks will face St. Cloud Cathedral in the State Championship game tomorrow inside the Xcel Energy Center.