Blake Biondi ripped a shot past the Monticello goaltender to give Hermantown a four-goal lead in the second period in Wednesday’s Class A boys hockey state quarterfinal game.
The Mr. Hockey finalist and University of Minnesota Duluth commit raised both arms as he skated around the back of the net on his way to the glass in front of the Hermantown student section. It wasn’t difficult to imagine Biondi mimicking Russell Crowe from the movie “Gladiator.”
“Are you not entertained?”
Biondi’s goal gave him a hat trick and he added two assists as No. 3-seeded Hawks cruised to a 7-1 victory against Monticello at Xcel Energy Center. Zach Kilen added two goals and an assist, while Aydyn Dowd and Aaron Pionk also scored for Hermantown.
“He’s such a dynamic player that he’s hard to stop whatever you run against him,” Monticello coach Eric Nelson said. “They were very, very good at moving the puck in transition on us that some guys, their heads were spinning that they were so quick up the ice. He’s a dynamic player. He’s a man amongst boys out there.”
Playing again on the big stage, Biondi scored the first two goals of the game and now has 46 goals and 47 assists this season. But the Hawks showed they are more than just Biondi. Nine players tallied a point, and Jacob Backstrom made 18 saves in goal.
Hermantown (22-3-4) is back in the state tournament after a one-year absence that only fueled Biondi and his teammates after having a nine-year streak of appearances snapped last season.
“It’s everything for me and this team,” Biondi said. “It was depressing for a long time (last year), and we came together as a group this summer and came together all season long, to get back to the state tournament and win a state championship. That’s what we’re trying to do this year. Everybody’s bought in right now. This is the closest group of guys I’ve been a part of, and I think that was the biggest thing.”
The Moose (20-8-1) got a third-period goal from Riley Ronayne after he flipped a puck on net from center ice that Backstrom had a tough time handling. Nash Wilson started in goal for the Moose and made 29 saves.
Monticello was making it’s third state tournament appearance in four years. The Moose lost 4-3 in double overtime to the Hawks in the 207 state championship.
“The sticks were probably getting gripped a little bit tighter as the score kept going up,” Nelson said. “Guys were pressing a little bit, but this is the stage you want to be on. Some of the kids were probably going to get more ice time than they’ve seen all year. The horses that they’ve got were probably a little bit better than our horses today.”
The Hawks will face No. 2 seed St. Cloud Cathedral in Friday’s semifinals, a rematch of a January meeting that ended in a 5-5 tie after Hermantown let a lead slip in the third period. The Crusaders (24-3-1) beat Mankato East/Loyola 11-2 in the first quarterfinal on Wednesday.
“We were up on them going into the third period and just kind of laid back, thought we had it,” Kilen said of the first meeting with Cathedral. “We’re looking forward to a rematch with them.”
Hawks coach Patrick Andrews added: “Friday’s going to be a riot. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if they’ve gotten better. I know we’ve gotten better. I’m just looking forward to it. Friday’s going to be fun, I can tell you that.”