Bruce Plante's formula to success over the years isn't a complicated one. All it takes for a successful team, according to the longtime coach, is a little dedication to the Hermantown program and a lot of senior leadership.
That's what has made the Hawks the envy of almost all other Class 1A schools over the past few years. Hermantown can lose a boatload of talent after each winter, yet still find a way to make its march back to St. Paul the next.
But that's what will happen when a lineup can be littered with seniors. The kids stay in Hermantown to get a chance on the big stage, and, if they fight through the ranks, that's exactly what they'll receive.
This year the Hawks have eight seniors and a few skilled juniors that account for most of their production.
Most of those kids have had to pay their dues with the junior varsity for a year or two before they were promoted to the big club.
It's been worth the wait. The Hawks are back at the Xcel Energy Center, and they'll be looking to take home the prize that has eluded them on championship Saturday each of the past three years -- the Class 1A state title.
-- Zack Friedli
FORWARDS: A 7.40 goals per game average proves that Hermantown knows how to put the puck in the net, and the Hawks will overpower opponents on the scoreboard with ease. The top line of Chris Benson, Travis Koepke and Bo Gronseth hold the sticks that stir the offensive drink for the Hawks, as they combined for 72 goals and 168 points during the season.
DEFENSE: The Hawks have maybe the best one-two punch at the blue-line in the whole state with Jake Zeleznikar and Neal Pionk manning the point. The duo combined for 25 goals and 68 points, and they did it while playing against opposing teams' big guns all year, proving that they not only contribute offensively, but they'll also cause headaches with their shutdown abilities in their own end.
GOALTENDING: Adam Smith and Jace Thomas split time in the crease during the regular season, but it's been Smith's job down the stretch. During that time, Smith has racked up a 12-0-1 record, a .917 saves percentage and a 1.60 goals against average.
Plante was a goaltender for Cloquet in high school and that helps explain why his teams always seem to find a way to remain strong defensively, even while they're scoring goals in bunches. the longtime -- and outspoken -- coach of Hermantown is hoping to lead his team back to a fourth consecutive Class 1A championship game. His "public school champion" Hawks have lost the three previous to Breck (2010) and St. Thomas Academy (2011-12).
Everyone knows that Hermantown will be hungry to kick the runner-up tag and get its first Class 1A title since 2007. But can the Hawks do it? If they get the consistent production that they've been getting all year, we like their chances.
Conference: Lake Superior
2012-13 Record: 23-4-1
State trips: 1994, 98, 99, 2001, 06, 07 Champs, 10, 11, 12, 13
Coach: Bruce Plante
Assistants: Daryl Illikainen, Craig Peterson, Matt Swanson, Nate Buck
Home arena: Hermantown Arena, Hermantown
Last season: Lost to St. Thomas Academy in Class 1A final, 5-1