From the Catbird's Seat: Southern InhospitalitySpare a thought this week for Cloquet native Bruce Plante, whose Hermantown Hawks got their hearts ripped out and handed to them during last Saturday’s Class A championship game.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
It was a sad end to an otherwise wonderful hockey game.
Even though he doesn’t coach here, spare a thought this week for Cloquet native Bruce Plante, whose Hermantown Hawks got their hearts ripped out and handed to them during last Saturday’s Class A championship game.
Some of that ripping was done by the St. Thomas Cadets, perennial — and now thankfully departed — Class A champions. The Hawks lost a 4-2 lead with nine minutes to play in the game on the way to their loss.
But the worst of the ripping was done by game officials, who suffered a complete meltdown in the last two minutes of the contest. They cost the Hawks a shot at overtime and quite possibly the state championship itself.
You know the story. Hermantown’s Scott Wasbotten was whistled for a holding penalty so soft it had a chewy caramel center, fully 200 feet away from the Hawks goal, in a tied state championship game with 1:57 to play.
The Hawks killed off 1:51 of that penalty but six seconds before the Cadets’ game-winning goal, winger Alex Johnson hog-tied Hawks defenseman Jake Zeleznikar while he was trying to clear the puck off the wall and out of the zone. Six seconds later, continuing a play that should have been blown dead, the Cadets’ Tommy Novak won the state tournament.
There’s just no excuse for officiating that bad at such a crucial moment. I get that referees have a hard job, but come on.
The takeaway here is that you can whistle one team for an offensive zone penalty with no clear evidence of holding but you can’t whistle the other team for an offensive zone penalty of the same type that is far more egregious seconds before they win the state tournament.
Plante, to his credit, was as diplomatic as he could have been expected to be. He said his conversation with the official after the game consisted of “One comment. Or two. Or five.”
He also said he didn’t want to say what was really on his mind for fear of angering his athletic director, Beth Clark.
Well, Bruce, I’ll say it for you, then. You guys wuz robbed.
Or, to use Plante’s later words, “it felt like we got homered.”
It’s stuff like this — and the State High School League’s resectioning plan announced the day after the tournament — that leads to conspiracy theories.
The Hawks get worked by officials like no northern team has since Cloquet played an entire state quarterfinal without a power play in 1992, and then the word comes out about the section pairing for next year. It’s the same old story. The deck is stacked.
Hermantown was moved out of Section 5A, where it has resided for the last four seasons, and into Section 7A with the Duluth schools.
Makes geographic sense, right? Well, Proctor wasn’t moved, and they live next door. Moose Lake Area wasn’t moved, and they live right down the street.
They only moved the champion, and they moved them into the section with all those pesky Duluth and Range schools. That smells really bad. In fact, it stinks. If you move one, move them all.
Is there a more obvious way for the high school league to come out and say they want the state tournament to feature more southern fried cooking?
The three northern teams in this year’s tournament — Hermantown, Marshall and East — went a combined 6-3 and all three teams brought home hardware. I can see where the Twin Citians would like to see a little less of that.
It’s pretty simple. Until the MSHSL finally wises up and puts private schools back in their own state tournament where they belong, there are two things they need to work on.
First, instruct their officials to call it both ways.
Second, remind themselves to do the same thing.