2021 MN Boys Hockey Tournament COVID Woes
It's with mixed feelings that I even bring this subject up. For one, hats off to everyone who tried their best to have a high school hockey season. COVID-19 can be a serious illness and it was important to ensure the safety of everyone involved. I'm not going to dispute that at all. We did the best we could. But, man has this been a rough season filled with "what might have been's."
The hockey tournament this year is underway, and the quarterfinal games finished last night. Locally we had Hermantown who went into the Class A tournament a number one seed, but ultimately lost to Dodge County 7-3. There's more to the score than that however, because Hermantown had to start most of their junior varsity players as their varsity team was out due to COVID-19 tracing rules. They had been exposed to COVID-19, and found out a day before their quarterfinal game that they would not be able to play. Imagine that for a moment. You work all season long, and what could be the final game of your high school career at the state tournament, and you're out. Heartbreaking is the only word I can say to describe it.
The JV boys did a good job. They hung in there. The score doesn't reflect how close the game was at times. Brian Prudhomme and myself got to call the game, and both of us feel that if the game had an extra period that Hermantown may have won it. They were forced to pull the goalie when they had momentum on their side, but unfortunately as it sometimes happens, an across the ice shot hit the Hawk's net and put the nail in the coffin of Hermantown and brought the score to 6-3. Then, Dodge County star player Brody Lamb put an icing on his night with just a over a minute left in the game with his 6 goal of the night.
But, what would have the outcome have been if Hermantown had their starting line up? Who knows? The same goes for other situations in the tournament. Many teams never even got their chance to try to advance to state, like Duluth East. They were out from covid before the sectional playoffs. International Falls got hit too. Other teams automatically advance, just like Wayzata who was supposed to play Hill Murray on Wednesday. Hill Murray had players try to sue the Minnesota High School League because they were restricted from play due to COVID-19 tracing. A judge threw that lawsuit out on Tuesday, and shortly after Hill Murray said they wouldn't be going to the tournament to defend their class AA championship title.
Like I started out earlier saying, I understand the need for safety in this pandemic. At the same time can we acknowledge how much it has stunk for everyone involved? All the teams and the MSHSL did the best we could, but it's still heartbreaking and frustrating for everyone involved in a season that may go down in the history books with an asterisk next to it.