Sophomore Jesse Jacques’ second-period goal was so deemed so important his Hermantown teammates selected him as their player of the game.
But it was junior Cole Koepke’s goal early in the third period of the Hawks’ 2-0 victory over St. Cloud Apollo in the state Class 1A semifinals that Hermantown coach Bruce Plante appreciated most.
“That really gets rid of some of the ulcer juices right there when you get that second one,” Plante said after piloting the No. 1-seeded Hawks to a sixth straight title game appearance. “The second goal is a coach-loving goal, I’ll tell you that.”
St. Cloud Apollo’s suffocating defensive style effectively bottled up the Hawks’ fast-paced and precision offense. State runner-up the last five seasons, Hermantown (27-2-1) earned a championship-game rematch with No. 3 East Grand Forks despite scoring fewer than three goals for just the second time all season. The Hawks had scored an average of seven goals in their previous four playoff games.
“You just go out there and you play how you’ve got to play,” Hermantown senior Nate Pionk said about adapting to No. 5 seed St. Cloud Apollo’s ice-clogging defensive system. “It doesn’t really matter how you win games.”
Jacques’ slap shot from the top of the right circle opened the scoring 6:44 into the second and earned him the pink Minnie Mouse bicycle helmet that goes with being selected the Hawks’ player of the game.
“Jacquo getting that first one in was huge for us,” Pionk said. “So we decided to give (the helmet) to him.”
Jacques, who has 10 goals this season, had the ridiculously small helmet strapped atop his head for the postgame media session.
“First time I’ve worn it,” Jacques said. “It feels pretty good.”
East Grand Forks defeated Hermantown 7-3 in last year’s title game.
“It’s a brand new year,” Pionk said about the rematch. “What’s happened in the past is the past.”
Sophomore Jesse Jacques and junior Cole Koepke scored goals and junior goaltender Luke Olson made 13 saves to lift No. 1-seeded Hermantown to a 2-0 victory over No. 5 seed St. Cloud Apollo on Friday in the state Class 1A quarterfinals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Hermantown, state runner-up the last five years and the state's top-ranked small school for most of the season, advances to the championship game Saturday against defending champion East Grand Forks. The Green Wave beat the Hawks 7-3 in last year’s title game.
After a scoreless first period, Jacques scored on a blast from the top of the right circle 6:44 into the second period to open the scoring. Koepke one-timed a centering pass from Ryan Kero past St. Cloud Apollo goaltender Nick Althaus 1:23 into the third period.
Hermantown (27-2-1) won despite being held under three goals for just the second time all season. The Hawks controlled play for long stretches but had a difficult time penetrating Apollo’s stingy defense.
Althaus finished with 23 saves for the Eagles (23-5-2).
The Hermantown student section performs the Hawk Dance during a timeout in the second period of the state Class 1A semifinals Friday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center.