Gentry Academy finished its dominating run through the Class A state tournament in its usual fashion Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center.
The second-seeded Stars blitzed Dodge County 8-1 to win their first state title in their first tournament appearance.
This is the Vadnais Heights program’s third season competing within the Minnesota State High School League, but the Stars fell in sections in each of the previous two seasons. This year, though, Gentry Academy (19-0) left no doubt as to who was the best team in Class A. Gentry Academy outshot Dodge County 54-9.
The Stars outscored their opponents by a combined score of 166- 20 this season.
Gentry Academy was tested in state. East Grand Forks led Gentry Academy 3-1 in the second period of the state semifinals Friday at the X before the Stars responded by scoring the game’s final four goals to storm into the final.
No such rally was required Saturday.
“It was such a good feeling for us coaches to see our boys play that well in this big of a game,” Gentry Academy coach Joe Cullen said. “We kind of thought we hadn’t played our best hockey during this tournament yet, and we were really hoping to show what we really have and put everything on display, and I think we really did that tonight. Right away, they were ready to go. I hadn’t seen them this excited in a long time.”
Many thought Saturday’s contest would feature the top two seeds in Class A — Gentry Academy and Hermantown. But the Hawks — who were without most of their varsity players after a supposed close contact with a section opponent who recorded a positive COVID-19 test — were upset by Dodge County in the state quarterfinals.
The Wildcats (19-4-1) continued their unexpected run to the finals. Dodge County was powered by junior forward Brody Lamb, a Gophers commit. Lamb finished the season with 52 goals and 35 assists, including Dodge County’s lone goal in the third period.
Many of the Stars’ goals Saturday were sights to behold. Gentry Academy dominated the shot count in the first period, but its lone goal came on a power-play strike from Damon Furuseth.
Cullen said it felt like it was turning into a situation where Gentry Academy might generate 100 chances and not bury any, until Wes Berg stuck up his stick.
Berg who finally potted the Stars’ second goal just more than a minute into the second period. As a shot came in from the point, Berg stuck his stick up and deflected the puck just under the crossbar. The play was reviewed for a high stick, but Berg lowered his body enough to keep his stick below the crossbar at the point of the deflection.
“Thankfully Wes isn’t the tallest guy,” Cullen noted.
Gentry Academy then scored a number of goals on a series of impressive snipes. Eight different players were responsible for the eight goals. Furuseth had three assists to go along with the opening goal.
Cullen said everyone was playing so well that the Stars essentially opened the door and were simply sending the next three onto the ice each shift. Everyone deserved an opportunity, and they capitalized on it.
When the final horn sounded, the Stars chucked their sticks and gloves in the air. Cullen felt joy, too. He has played in this tournament. His dad coached in it. And now, he’s won it.
“It’s something I didn’t think would be as amazing of a feeling as it is. It’s hard to describe,” Cullen said. “(The boys) did an amazing job all year. They were an amazing group. They were the most competitive group I’ve ever been around, and it showed every single day, so I’m just so thrilled for them. With all the work they put in, they deserved it.”
If Gentry Academy is to repeat, it will do so in a different class next season. The Stars are moving up to Class 2A.
“We see some of these teams playing (in 2A), and it’s exciting. We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “But it’ll be a good thing for us.”