Hermantown knows what it takes to succeed at the highest stage and St. Cloud Cathedral looks like the early favorite in Class 1A, with five wins over teams that were ranked at some point, and a state-best 6.08 goals-per-game average.
This should be a good test for both teams to start 2019, and set up a storyline for what could be a state tournament rematch down the road.
The Hawks (7-3, 1-0) saw their streak of eight straight Class 1A title game appearances snapped last spring, but still claimed third place. Stopping a prolific Crusaders attack will be key for the Hawks, who have won five in a row.
Defenseman Darian Gotz was a Class 1A all-tournament selection last year and has been busy helping slow down opponents, with goaltender Cole Manahan's 2.07 goals-against average and .914 save percentage serving as stout last line of defense.
St. Cloud Cathedral (12-0, 0-0) recently won the Granite City Boys Hockey Showcase, and has at least five goals in its last six games.
Goalie Noah Amundson boasts an impressive 1.38 goals-against average and three shutouts for the Crusaders.