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St. Cloud Cathedral boys hockey defeats Hermantown in MSHSL Class 1A championship

The Crusaders win their second state title in school history

ST. PAUL — No. 3-seed St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders (26-4-1) defeated the No. 1-seed Hermantown Hawks (20-9-2) in the 2024 Class 1A MSHSL boys hockey state championship on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. 

St. Cloud Cathedral began its season without a captain, and it went 10 games without its starting goaltender, senior Nick Hansen, because of a dislocated left shoulder.

“When he went down, he was at every practice,” Crusader head coach Robbie Stocker said. “He was at every game. He was acting as a second goalie coach.”

The Crusaders needed him in goal after a 6-4 record without him. One of the four losses, and the final game Hansen missed, was to Hermantown. Hansen returned for the next game, and Stocker challenged his team to go 15-0 for the rest of the season. The Hawks did, and now they’re Class 1A champions.

“That set the tone, when he came back, what this group was going to be,” Stocker said. “I can’t speak highly enough of him as a leader on what he was able to do for this group.”

Four games later, Stocker gave Hansen the ‘C’ on the front of the jersey.

“The ship was pretty steady there on out,” Stocker said.

Two months after Hermantown defeated the Crusaders, Hansen made 28 saves to defeat the Hawks in Saturday's final.

“It’s unreal the amount of times he’s bailed me out,” senior defenseman Vince Gebhardt said. “He bailed me out once big time today once backdoor on the penalty kill, which we talked about.”

St. Cloud Cathedral executed a 3-on-2 opportunity to take a 1-0 lead. After the Crusaders blocked a shot and recovered the puck and pushed into the Hawks' offensive zone. Joey Gillespie found John Hirschfeld, who found Andrew Dwinnell for the clinical goal.

“It’s a play we always work on in practice,” Dwinnell said. “… We do lots of zone entry drills, and my linemates are usually the first ones on the puck and the first ones in the zone, so I feel like I’m trailing play a lot.”

Hermantown grew into the game. The Hawks had a 23-15 advantage in shots-on-goal with 11 minutes remaining in the third period. They finished with a 29-21 advantage.

“I thought we got better and better as the game went on,” Hermantown coach Patrick Andrews said. “We started to outshoot them. I really liked our second period, and the third period was fine. Yeah, they got those two goals, and it was kind of weird because I felt like we had the better go of it, honestly.”

Dwinnell found the important second goal of the game. He skated down the left side, and he shot as he reached the faceoff circle, and the puck went over the Hermantown goalies' blocker for the goal.

St. Cloud Cathedral sealed its win when Gillespie deflected a centered pass from Hirschfield for the third goal.

Hermantown pulled its goalie, Dane Callaway, down three goals with three minutes remaining, and the Hawks scored with the extra attacker. AJ Francisco scored from a loose puck in front of the net to end the shutout.

For St. Cloud Cathedral, it’s their second state championship in five years.

“I think that it’s really good for our area,” Hansen said. “I know that sometimes we can struggle getting numbers out for the team, and to be able to attract more players to play hockey because of what we’re able to do right now, and being able to have more options makes better hockey teams, and better hockey teams win championships. 

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- Jack Butler | | @Butler917