Four-peat's sake: Former Owatonna coach Storm guides South to fourth straight boys hockey section title
Josh Storm narrowly missed out on the opportunity to play in a state tournament during his high school days. Thursday, he helped guide Lakeville South to its fourth consecutive Section 1AA boys hockey hockey championship and a spot in next week's Class AA state tournament.
ROCHESTER — Josh Storm has a vivid memory of, when he was a young boy in the 1980s, his father driving him from their home in Lakeville to the Met Center in Bloomington to watch a boys hockey section championship game.
“My dad brought me to what I thought was a state tournament, but looking back, it was a section final game at the Met Center when I was 6 or 7 years old,” Storm said. “From that moment on, I wanted to be a part of the state tournament.
“This opportunity (to coach at Lakeville South), it really gave me the chance as a coach to get there. I didn’t get that opportunity as a player; we lost in the section finals to Mayo my senior year. This is something I’m really excited for. My dad is gone now, but I’m sure he’d be really excited, too.”
Storm’s dad is indeed smiling down on him. In his first season as head coach at Lakeville South, Storm will get his first state tournament experience next week.
With a 4-1 victory against Lakeville North on Thursday in the Section 1AA championship game at the Rochester Recreation Center — a win that gives South a sweep of the three-game series against its crosstown rival this season — South earned its fourth consecutive trip to the Class AA state tournament, and seventh in program history.
It’s a first, however, for Storm, who took over the Cougars program this season after spending the past decade as the head coach at Owatonna.
Storm said there were times throughout this week — after South’s 6-0 win against Mayo in the section semifinals last Saturday — when he allowed himself to think of how it might feel to win a section championship. And as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the third period on Thursday, the dream didn’t come close to matching the reality.
“I went there,” Storm said of allowing himself to dream of coaching at the state tournament. “This whole week has been a long week, not a lot of sleep. When you haven’t been a part of a team that truly is a favorite going in … it’s different, and there’s pressure.
“I did think about what it would feel like to win this game, and it didn’t even come close to as good as it actually feels in real life.”
Cougars’ junior forward Ashton Dahms — who assisted on South’s first goal Thursday, then scored the game winner just 37 seconds into the third period — said the players have embraced Storm, and he has embraced them. That was evident following Thursday’s game as players sought out their head coach for hugs and pictures with the section championship plaque.
“He’s been a great coach,” Dahms said, “an unbelievable coach. He’s pushed every single player to their max and every player we have right now is giving 110 percent. That’s huge and we love him. He’s part of our family now and hopefully we can just keep winning for him.”
Thursday’s game marked the second consecutive meeting in the section championship game between the rivals from Lakeville, and the fifth time in the past six years. It also marked the 10th all-time meeting between them in the section final; South had won five of the previous nine, including a 7-3 victory in last year’s section championship game.
South, which hasn’t lost since a 2-1 setback against Rosemount on Jan. 15, will bring a 16-game winning streak and a 25-3-0 record into the state tournament.
“Just to be able to grow up and go watch the tournament, it’s a massive dream to get to play there,” said Dahms, who will play at state for the third time. “It’s hard for me to believe, but hopefully we can get back to work and play our best hockey next week.”
Dating back to 2002 — when Lakeville High won its first of three consecutive Section 1AA titles — at least one Lakeville team has been in 20 of the 21 1AA title games played. The last time a Lakeville team didn’t appear in the section final occurred in 2005, when Rochester Century beat Rochester John Marshall 5-3 to earn its first-ever trip to the state tournament.
No. 9-ranked South — which finished as the state runner-up last year, falling 2-1 to Eden Prairie in the state title game — will seek its first-ever state championship next week. It begins play in The Tourney on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. South’s game time and opponent will be determined this weekend after the eight participants are known, and the coaches of those eight teams vote to seed the top five teams.
South earned its way back to The X by scoring three third-period goals on Thursday to snap a 1-1 tie. Storm said the Cougars re-focused after a “sloppy” end to the second period.
“I said, since the moment I came here, the one thing I’ve known about you guys is you’re the most competitive, hard-working — our practices are a regular tussle,” Storm said. “These kids fight and claw so hard every single day. We get better in practices than we do in any games, and I’ve never seen kids do that like they do.
“I told them ‘if I had to pick 20 kids to go to battle with, to get to the state tournament, I would pick every one of you.’”
North, led by third-year head coach Jake Taylor, a former Rochester Lourdes and University of Minnesota standout defenseman, finishes its season 21-7-0 and as the section runner-up for the third time in the past four years.
How They Scored
• South 1, North 0 (10:21): Ashton Dahms — who had a hat trick in Saturday’s section semifinal win against Rochester Mayo — finds Austin Stoneking in the slot. Stoneking uses a slick backhand-forehand-backhand move and puts a shot top-shelf past North goalie Finn Jacques.
• North 1, South 1 (15:24): With a delayed penalty coming against South, Jameson Klein crashes to the net and gets a rebound that he puts high past Cougars goalie Jack Hochsprung’s blocker.
• South 2, North 1 (:37): Ashton Dahms puts a shot on goal from low in the right circle that Jacques appears to have stopped, but the puck trickles through his pads to give South the lead.
• South 3, North 1 (2:22): On a 2-on-2 rush, Jackson Ernst flips a backhand on net that squeaks through Jacques’ blocker-side to give the Cougars a two-goal lead.
• South 4, North 1 (11:24): Ben Portner’s 12th goal of the season may be his biggest. A short-handed goal gives the Cougars a three-goal lead. Dahms gets an assist.
PB’s 3 Stars
• No. 3, Austin Stoneking, South: The senior scored his eighth goal of the season in the first period, staking the Cougars to an early lead. They never trailed.
• No. 2, Jack Hochsprung, South: The junior goalie only needed to stop 16 shots, but he made some crucial saves, including one against North’s Chase Camili 16 seconds into the third. South turned that puck the other way and scored the game winner 21 seconds later.
• No. 1, Ashton Dahms, South: The junior forward scored the game-winning goal and assisted on two more, giving him 42 points for the season.
SOUTH 4, NORTH 1
Lakeville North 0-1-0 — 1
Lakeville South 1-0-3 — 4
First period — 1. LS, Austin Stoneking 8 (Ashton Dahms 16) 10:21. Second period — 2. LN, Jameson Klein 4 (Kyle Doll 26, Ryan Brodin 8) 15:24. Third period — 3. LS, Ashton Dahms 25 (Tyler Lafferty 20) :37. 4. LS, Jackson Ernst 8 (Zander Billins 4) 2:22. 5. LS, Ben Portner 12 (Dahms 16) 11:24.
Goalies — LN, Finn Jacques (L, 21-7-0; 33 saves-37 shots); LS, Jack Hochsprung (W, 20-3-0; 16 saves-17 shots). Shots on goal — LN 5-10-2—17; LS 9-18-10—37. Power-play opportunities — LN, 0-for-3; LS, 0-for-5. Penalties — LN, 6-12 minutes; LS, 5-10 minutes.