Hermantown defenseman Jared Kolquist (No. 16) celebrates with his teammates as Hopkins goalie Josh Kuemichael (No. 30) watches on Friday, Dec. 9 at the Hopkins Pavillion Ice Arena. Photo by Adam Crane
Hermantown's Jared Thomas (No. 10) scores the first goal of the game off the draw to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead in the first period, beating Hopkins goalie (No. 30) Joshua Kuemichel on Friday, Dec. 9 at the Hopkins Pavillion Ice Arena. Photo by Adam Crane
Hermantown hasn't been back to the Twin Cities since this past March and it was a memorable and exciting ride into St. Paul.
Much like an oiled machine, the Hawks made it to the Class A finals last season, ultimately losing to St. Thomas Academy in an epic overtime thriller.
Jared Thomas did not let Hermantown have any negative thoughts on a trip back to the St. Paul/Minneapolis area, scoring two goals and assisting on another to help the Hawks to a 5-3 win against Hopkins.
"First one was off a faceoff, I saw the center trying to take the faceoff a certain way so I put it through his legs and I ended up getting around him and kicked the puck to my stick and went around the goalie and backhanded it in," Thomas said.
To make sure his was still ready to go, he buried another goal 24 seconds later to give Hermantown a 2-0 lead.
"Went around the net, took a shot that got saved, took another shot that got saved and the third whack got it in for me," Thomas said.
There was a lot that Hermantown had going in the first period.
It unloaded 19 shots on net and only allowed a six.
Hermantown could not have started any better than it did, coming off a bus ride that takes more than two hours and having to turn right around as it has to shift gears quickly and play Totino-Grace on Saturday.
Thomas got his two goals in right away with some grit and those ultimately set the tone for the Hawks first 17 minutes of play.
"You can tell it took some wind from their sails," Hawks defenseman Brian LeBlanc said. "It took the crowd out of the game.
"It was nice to see Jared quiet their crowd down because they were all set to go before the game and he was able to keep them quiet until the end."
The formula was simple, but effective for Hermantown.
There wasn't anything fancy about putting pucks into the net or by putting the Royals on their heels early in the game.
"Coming into the game we wanted to get the puck deep and work our forecheck because we are a pretty good forechecking team," Thomas said. "Most teams playing from the North, down here, they're not used to that. They're used to high-flying, not a grind it out game.
"We just worked them down low, won battles and scored two quick goals."
"I like the way they play," Royals coach Rolf Ulvin said. "They keep it all simple, but work hard.
"They worked us over for most of the game until the end."
Hermantown defenseman Jared Kolquist (No. 16) doing what he does best against Hopkins on Friday, Dec. 9 at the Hopkins Pavillion Ice Arena. Photo by Adam Crane
It might be easy to point to the success of the offense for that production, but Hermantown has one of the strongest defensive corps in the state, let by 2011 All-State selection Jared Kolquist and LeBlanc.
"We have about five guys that we can put out there on defense and feel pretty confident," Hawks coach Bruce Plante said. "There are a lot of options and they all have done a nice job for us."
Kolquist and LeBlanc have been playing on the Hawks varsity team since their freshmen season's.
Now, they are defensive partners and use a combination of offensive playmaking abilities to compliment their play inside the blue line.
This has led to many shining opportunities where both have been able to experience the good that comes from playing at the varsity level so early.
"We've been through a lot together," LeBlanc said. "There have been a couple second place finishes, trips to state and all of that."
"He's a great teammate to have and I have been lucky to have him with me for so long," Kolquist said. "We know what each other are doing out there and with us being involved in the offense, one of us always knows when we need to hang back."
Minus two goals late in the third period, Hermantown was nearly flawless on defense as its defensemen made sure to limit the scoring chances of Hopkins and also moved the puck out of the zone quickly, allowing for players like Thomas to shine.
"We don't spend a lot of time in our zone," Thomas said. "They do a great job moving the puck up to us as well as what they do in our own zone.
"They are tough to play against in practice, which makes you better. I'm just glad that they are on our team for games."
It is tough to pinpoint a weakness on the Hawks team this season, even if they are just two games in, but right now, they are showing opponents how to play a complete team game.
Thomas has proven the Hawks can score as many goals as they need to and a senior led defensive group has the experience to handle anything that is thrown their way.
"Those two have been together for four years now," Plante said. "That has been since their freshmen year, so that tells you have special they are."
Jared Thomas and Jake Zeleznikar each scored two goals for Hermantown as the Hawks beat Hopkins 5-3 on Friday, Dec. 9 at Hopkins Pavillion Ice Arena.
Thomas, a senior forward and potential Mr. Hockey candidate, scored two first period goals to give Hermantown a lead it would never surrender.
It also highlighted the Hawks dominance in the first 17, when they unleashed 19 shots on goal.
Tim Weiner scored twice in the third for the Royals to keep them within in striking distance.
Unfortunately, every time Hopkins scored, the Hawks answered back and would not let the Royals get closer than two goals of tying the game.
Zach Edgerton made 23 saves for the win, while Joshua Kuemichel stayed busy in net for Hopkins, stopping 34 of 39 shots.
Hermantown improves to 2-0-0 on the season and will hit the road back home immediately to play a high-caliber Class A team in Totino-Grace.
Hopkins falls to 1-4-0 on the year.
It will not play again until Dec. 17, when it hosts Coon Rapids.
1. Jared Thomas, Hermantown
Thomas, a senior who scored 71 points last season, picked up two early goals to spark the vicotry. The 6-foot, 190-pound Thomas was able to drive to the net, get shots on goal and bury rebounds. His second goal was one of pure effort, not giving up as his third shot ended up going in. Thomas also had an assist to give him three points.
2. Jake Zeleznikar, Hermantown
His two goals matched Thomas and were equally as big. Whenever Hopkins scored to pull within two, Zeleznikar came up with a big score to answer and not let the Royals back in the game.
3. Tim Weiner, Hopkins
When it looked like the Hawks were going to pull away, Weiner was able to score two third-period goals to give Hopkins a chance. His second goal was on a breakaway, when he fired a shot over the glove of Hawks' goalie Zach Edgerton.