It’s been 18 years since the Greenway boys hockey team last played its way to the state tournament. That streak ended Wednesday night as the Raiders pulled off a dramatic, 3-2, double overtime win over five-time defending Section 7A champs Hermantown at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Greenway’s Donte Lawson buried a rebound in front of Hawks’ goalie Cole Manahan three minutes into the second overtime to end Hermantown’s streak of section titles.
It was a breakthrough win for Greenway, which had dropped the past two section championships to the Hawks, including a heartbreaking, 5-4, loss in double overtime last season.
The balance of the game was decided between the pipes on both ends with the Raiders’ Logan Wright stopping 48 shots, including a flurry of 20 shots in the first period alone. Manahan had 36 saves for the Hawks.
Greenway coach Grant Clafton said there was no doubt heading into the contest the Raiders were going to be ready to challenge the state’s No. 1 ranked team.
“The mindset never changes,” he said. “We’re winning this game. First overtime, second overtime, down 2-1, we were winning this game all the way through. These boys believed it, our staff believed it.
“The game is mental and it’s a mindset. Mentally, they overcame being tired and stuff like that and kept their eye on the prize.”
The Raiders struck first in the opening frame as Lawson centered a pass to Ben Troumbly from behind the goal line. Troumbly immediately fired off a shot from the slot past Manahan and Greenway led 1-0 six and a half minutes in.
Hermantown answered three minutes later with a score from Aaron Pionk, then 48 seconds later, Blake Biondi scored to put the Hawks in front 2-1.
It was all the Hermantown would get past Wright.
“Logan Wright was the key in the first period,” Clafton said. “He gave us a chance, he gave us an opportunity to win this game because of how he played in the first period. We got outshot 2-1, 22-11, it wasn’t our best effort, but they brought it in the second and they brought it in the third and overtime and the second overtime.”
The Raiders started to limit Hermantown’s scoring opportunities into the second period, while generating a number of chances of their own. Eleven minutes into the frame, Troumbly gathered the puck in front of Manahan and backhanded a shot to tie the game, 2-2.
From there, both goalies delivered save-after-save throughout the third period to send the game to overtime.
Just more than a minute into the extra frame, Greenway got its first prime scoring chance with Lawson getting loose on break, but Manahan made the stop.
On Lawson’s game-winner, the Raiders fed the puck out to Aaron Elich down the left side into the Hermantown zone. Elich then reeled off a shot from the far side of the circle. With Lawson trailing on the inside, Elich’s shot deflected in front of Manahan where Lawson found just enough space to send it past the Hawks’ goaltender.
“I knew I had to just put the puck on net,” Lawson said of his split-second reaction. “I don’t even know where I shot it to be honest. At the end I just saw it hit the back of the net.”
Lawson, a senior captain, said the moments afterward were something he’ll never forget.
“It’s something special that we’ll never forget,” he said. “We just want to thank our community and everyone behind us.”
Despite his performance in goal, Wright credited his teammates, along with goalie coach Derek Peterson for Wednesday’s performance.
“I couldn’t have done it without these phenomenal guys behind me,” he said. “It’s a team effort. I’m so proud of those boys because we worked so hard during the season.”
Micah Gernander had the Raiders’ second assist on the opening goal. There was just one penalty in the contest, taken by the Hawks late in the first period.
Along with the five consectutive 7A titles, Hermantown had previously won four straight 5A championships prior to moving back into 7A.
Clafton said with a ramped up schedule this season, it helped prepare the Raiders for what was to come in the postseason.
“The schedule was put together for this game,” he said. “We put seven double A teams on the schedule, we put the best single A teams on the schedule and we played them consistently all the way through. There’s adversity, it was supposed to be hard, going to the state tournament is not supposed to be easy.”
Clafton, who is in his fourth year leading the team, credited the support the Greenway community has poured into the program to bring to where it is.
“I think it means everything to the community,” he said. “Hockey is such a huge tradition in Coleraine and the Iron Range communities and especially our Greenway community. There’s a lot of people who have put a lot of time into this, Jim Lawson, Pat Guyer, Adam Johnson. The list goes on and on; and all the kids that came before these guys, their brothers played, their dads played. It’s huge. It’s a special thing and I’m very fortunate to be a part of that group.”
Greenway (15-13), which enters the Class A state tournament on a nine-game win streak, will open play with a game Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Section 7A Championship
Greenway 3, Hermantown 2 2 OT
GWY 1 1 0 0 1 - 3
HER 1 2 0 0 0 - 2
First period: 1, G, Ben Troumbly (Donte Lawson, Micah Gernander), 6:38; 2, H, Aaron Pionk (Darian Gotz), 9:23; 3, H, Blake Biondi (Joey Pierce, Elliott Petersen), 10:11.
Second period: 4, G, Troumbly (unassisted), 11:13.
Third period: No scoring.
First overtime: No scoring.
Second overtime: 5, G, Lawson (Aaron Elich), 3:11.
Saves: G, Logan Wright 48; H, Cole Manahan 36.