Harris’ overtime goal sends Mahtomedi back to state

The names have changed over the past decade plus, but the result rarely does.

Mahtomedi is again heading to the state boys’ hockey tournament.

Sam Harris scored his second goal of the night 26 seconds into overtime and the Zephyrs survived Southwest Christian/Richfield 3-2 Thursday in the Class A, Section 4 final.

“Great team win. Super proud of me and all the boys,” Harris said. “No better feeling than going to the tourney with all your brothers.”

Class A action begins Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center. Brackets will be announced Saturday.

Harris took a cross-ice pass from Wyatt Tarnowski just inside the blue line, and his wrist shot found its way through traffic and a screen by Gene Wegleiter to get past Jannes Kamp, the Stars’ 6-foot-7 goalie, who made tremendous saves all night.

Harris had just three goals in the Zephyrs first 27 games.

“I told my coaches I was saving them, I was putting them in the cookie jar, saving them for when it matters,” he said. “They were always telling me I was gonna score when it mattered.”

Coach Jeff Poeschl, whose team improved to 17-11-0, said Harris played 2 ½ years with just a lone empty-net goal.

“We joked, ‘how come you can’t score with a goalie in the net?’ The last six weeks he’s just been lights out, playing with such confidence and tonight it was fun to see him do his thing,” Poeschl said.

Mahtomedi played in the section final for the eighth straight season and 10th time in 11 years. It is 9-2 in those contests.

“I don’t know, other than you just get that feeling that you’re always going to the X,” said Jake Hodd-Chlebeck, who also scored.

Many high school hockey aficionados will say the section tournaments produce the best action throughout the season. This one surely qualified.

“There’s nothing like a section final, and this felt like a section final,” Poeschl said. “Southwest Christian had a great game plan, they played very hard and they should be very proud. I was very impressed with their effort.”

Jared Greiner scored twice for the Stars (17-11-0).

Tied at 1, it was a wild few minutes late in regulation.

Moments after Paul Horner just missed for the Stars, Harris whistled a low wrist shot that found the back of the net with 3:46 to play.

A penalty on Southwest Christian/Richfield penalty gave Mahtomedi a prime opportunity for an insurance marker, instead it was Greiner tying the contest with a shorthanded goal with just 2:31 remaining in regulation.

“It’s adversity and we just overcame it,” said Hodd-Chlebeck.

Down 1-0 entering the third period, Mahtomedi came out with an amped-up intensity. Hodd-Chlebeck scored 17 seconds into the frame, converting a pass from Harris to even things up.

Laken Decker appeared to make it 2-1 Mahtomedi barely two minutes later, but after a lengthy review officials determined the net was dislodged.

“I thought we were playing tight. I thought we were playing not to lose. I just said ‘This is not a game to play not to lose. We need to play to win this game,’” Poeschl said. “They loosened up, they started moving the puck and they kept pucks in the zone, we bottled them up and we were able to get a couple in.”

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