It’s on. The game northland hockey fans have been clamoring for has finally returned.
All it took to reignite the series between Hermantown and Duluth East, dormant for more than two decades, was a pandemic. After years of Duluth East’s dominance in the series, then-emerging Hermantown registered its first win over the Greyhounds, a 4-2 decision on Jan. 28, 1999. And that was that for the budding rivalry.
Hermantown coach Pat Andrews said he has issued a standing offer to play Duluth East. Duluth East coach Mike Randolph, in his 32nd season leading the Greyhounds, has a standing reply: “We’ll play you when you move up to Double A.”
School district-mandated travel restrictions, implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic, limit both teams’ ability to take long-distance road trips this winter. With a renewed emphasis on playing local opponents, if at all possible, the series between Duluth East and Hermantown was resumed with two games this season, the first of which is Tuesday night at Duluth’s Heritage Sports Center.
Hermantown enters with an 8-0-0 record, the No. 1 ranking in the Class 1A coaches' poll from Feb. 3, the state’s leading scorer in sophomore sensation Zam Plante (18 goals, 33 points) and a leading Mr. Hockey contender in hulking defenseman and Minnesota Duluth commit Joey Pierce (5 goals, 14 points).
Duluth East, a traditional Class 2A superpower that owns three state titles, is 4-1-1 and led by junior Kaden Nelson’s four goals and seven assists.