2020 Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament
Updated: Aug 3
The Minnesota State Hockey Tournament. TheTourney. The biggest thing in High School sports. Kids dream of it their entire life but most will never play it. Only the best teams step on the ice every March at the X in downtown St. Paul. Take a look at the greatest week in Minnesota through my lens as I tagged along with my former team, St. Cloud Cathedral.
The night before The Tourney, players from every team dress their best and head to the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, located right next to the Xcel. This is where players walk the red carpet, have a great dinner, listen to a special speaker, and hear from each coach on every team. It is where the build up for the entire week begins.
This photo was captured before the State Quarterfinals game. Assistant Coach Ron Brown (left), and his grandson, senior player, Will Medvec (right), share a special moment together at the X. Coach Ron Brown finished his 39th year of being the Assistant Coach at St. Cloud Cathedral and is truly the heart of the program.
Another photo of Coach Ron Brown aka "Brownie" taking in the moment as he coaches his 10th State Tournament.
Lots of goals in this first game with some players scoring their first State Tournament goal. Nothing compares to that moment.
I think the most surprising 'First State Tournament Goal' that happened in the game was Reid Bogenholm. Reid has seen it all. Holding the Cathedral record for most games played in a career, with one hundred nineteen games, he didn't miss a single game from freshman year, to senior year. The Air Force commit is probably one of the best skating defenseman you've seen in Class A in awhile. Ending with ninety-nine career points, kid is Mr. Reliable on the blueline.
By far my favorite photo of the day. Chandler Hendricks, a sophomore, scores his first varsity goal. Very few can say they've done that at the State Tournament. My senior year, Chandler was my hockey brother, so we became close friends, and I couldn't be more proud. I scored my first varsity goal on Hockey Day Minnesota, and thought of that as the greatest feeling ever. I can only imagine what was going through Chandler's head in this moment.
Another photo that I loved from the State Quarterfinals was this one. Once Cathedral got up 11-2 late in the third period, they pulled their starting goaltender and put in backup Ian Strong. I could tell Ian was nervous, so as I was looking through the porthole and the play was on the other side of the ice, I yelled, "Ian!" He looked directly at me, so I yelled, "smile!" He gave me the biggest grin. I don't know what the rules are for yelling through the porthole as a photographer (I'm sure there is one), but how can you pass up a photo like this!?
The final goal of the Quarter Finals was from Mack Motzko (left). Nate Warner (right) and Mack started as freshman together and have had such a strong brotherhood.
Before nearly every game I have a photo of CJ doing this same ritual of closed eyes with hands folded into each other. This was by far my favorite though. If you watched this game, you saw in the first period CJ make a quick transition and deliver the most brutal, clean hit I've seen in high school hockey. The video went everywhere but I love to see how calm he is before the storm.
The most watched game in Class A State Tournament History. I don't think there will be a game with as much skill and talent as the 2020 Hermantown vs. Cathedral State Semifinal game ever again. Seriously. Some crazy good hockey players were on that ice. Two Mr. Hockey Finalists, and six division one commits with some more still pending.
Number eight is great. No, seriously. Nate Warner making big time plays in big time games, again and again. To have two hundred twenty-one career points for Cathedral is just insane. The Minnesota commit is, in my opinion, the smoothest hockey player you'll ever watch. From his hands to his glide. He makes things look so effortless. He makes the game look like it's in sudden slow motion. What's even crazier, after having all that skill, he is the most humble person you'll ever meet. He doesn't talk about himself - ever. He is all for the guy next to him, and he showed that his junior year when he had a major upper body injury that should've put him out until long after the season was over, but instead he played with basically one arm, and recorded eighteen points in six games to lead us to a State Championship.
Ethan Cumming being in the right spot at the right time. Not a coincidence either. "Shorty", as everyone calls him, is a team player who will play one shift back at defense, then the next be up at forward scoring powerplay goals. He's a quick skater with some nice hands, and will bite with a nasty body check. He can do everything on the ice, and I think that includes goalie at this point (beware though, he might score on his own net). Shorty is also the life of the locker room. Dude will talk to anyone about anything at any time. You don't realize how important those guys are to a team until they're gone. They are the whole energy of the team and are at the center of it.
I have never felt pain while taking photos. Not until this moment. To sit in a locker room with guys who were so close to their goal. Who gave so much to this team to come up short. Many of them could have left last year to play juniors. Many fought injuries. I spent 90 minutes in the locker room after the game but only took nineteen photos. Not a lot for a camera that shoots twenty pics per second. I stayed with the guys in the moment to only click the shutter when the time was right. My job as a photographer is to capture every moment of the athlete, good or bad, no matter how vulnerable it might feel. I hope the guys will look back on these photos as a source of strength someday. It takes incredible strength to get back up after a moment like this.
Long after the game, everyone is gone but Jack - still got half his gear on. After Jack's sophomore year, he was offered to leave high school and play for the USA Development team. He declined it to stay with his best friends. The Minnesota Duluth Commit had a tough season this year, missing fifteen games due to shoulder and knee injuries. But Jack battled through it all for this team. The guy just loves his team, loves the game and is the toughest player I know.
Seniors. Their final game in the blue and gold. This group won a State Title, has two third place titles, a Hockey Day Minnesota win, totaled nine hundred eighty-one points, a Mr. Hockey Finalist, three all tournament team members, a second and a third team All-State member, and five MN All-Star Game appearances. But, after all that, the thing that shines the most, is the quality of people they are.
A guy who is a lot different than what you'd think a good hockey player is, but Blake Perbix is a special breed. In my opinion, the most underrated player in the state.
The only Mr. Hockey Finalist that isn't committed (that'll change very soon though). He's not the fastest or strongest. He doesn't have the hardest shot either. But that's what throws a defenseman off. They're not expecting a guy like Blake to come down the ice and completely embarrass them. It's because Blake sees a different sheet of ice than everybody else in the arena. My only explanation, he's a magician. I'd put money down that Blake is a descendent of Phil Kessel even. If you ever ran into Blake before a game, you'd probably start laughing at his hot pink gameday shirt that says, "Stay Golden" and has the four Golden Girls on it. I mean, what dude sports a pink candy cane tape job and has two hundred thirteen points in just three years of varsity? Pipe does.
Mack's Game-Winner. Mack aka "Cougar" had a tough run through High School Hockey. He played as a freshman and lost a tough OT thriller in State Semis. Then his sophomore year, Cathedral was upset in double OT of Section Finals to Alexandria. Not long after, his dad became the new Gopher Hockey Head Coach. Suddenly, Mack was moving to Minnetonka, another great team, but ultimately was upset as well in Section Semifinals to Holy Family. Mack watched The Tourney from the stands as his old team and still best friends, won a state title. Missing his boys, he got the approval from MSHSL to transfer back to Cathedral for his senior year. Mack is a leader. He plays with so much heart, and comes to work every single day harder than anyone I've ever seen. To see Mack score the game-winner in the third place game was such a great way to end his high school career. Might not have been the way he wanted, but Mack battled harder than anyone and deserves that final goal.
In Mack's celebration, he fell straight to the ice.
Saying goodbyes. You come to battle every single day with these guys, and with these coaches. It's tough after years of the good, the bad, and the great, to have one last moment in the locker room with your buddies wearing your high school jersey knowing it's the last. I think the toughest goodbye is saying goodbye to Coach Bruce. When you come into high school, you expect to get to know the Head Coach, but end up becoming just as close to Brucie. His small little chirps and unique personality along with his incredible hockey knowledge create one of the closest friendships you never thought you'd have. We all have our favorite Brucie memories. From him getting hit by pucks ringing around the boards, his daily mastermind of a power play, him yelling "on it!" from the bench every shift, or challenging our defensemen to a fight with only one arm.
2020 Class A Third Place Champions:
St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders
I was asked to photograph Hermantown in their State Championship game as well. Here's a look at some of my favorites.
It's tough coming so close to your dream, yet coming up short. But sports are a lot like life, and sometimes it doesn't go the way you want. My junior year, we lost in section finals, and were devastated. The thing that stuck with me that I use way more in life, than I ever did in hockey, was when coach Derrick Brown said,