Hermantown came out strong after a long Friday night, beating Totino Grace 7-3. Photos by Jordan Doffing; OTSN
In both 2010 and 2011, Hermantown was within a goal of the state Class 1A championship, falling to Breck 2-1 two years ago, and St. Thomas Academy 5-4 in overtime last March.
Although the achievements are nothing to be ashamed of, the Hawks keep pushing forward in hopes of a state title -- not an easy thing to do, especially when you consider the star power lost off both rosters.
In 2010, Adam Krause, now skating for Minnesota-Duluth, led the Hawks with 34 goals and 59 points. Last season, Garrett Skribich, a Princeton recruit, netted 37 goals and 61 points. Both players graduated after runner-up finishes with the Hawks.
Those are big shoes to fill, but No. 3-ranked Hermantown always feels like it will find a way to do it. This year is no different.
Led by seniors Jared Kolquist, Jared Thomas and Brian LeBlanc, this edition of the Hawks is a little unusual compared to the ones in recent memory – less star power, more role players. Hermantown is a senior-laden crew, a fact that might give the Hawks an edge down the road.
“We’re working really hard, and our leadership is good,” Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said. “They’re loose in the locker room, but they’re all business once they hit the ice. Our practices have been as good as we’ve ever had.”
“It really makes everybody better.”
Plante and his team know there is still a lot to work on, but they’ve been happy with the signs of a good team they’ve seen this weekend. Maybe the most promising is the fact that the Hawks have bounced back well from adversity.
“I think that shows that we as a team don’t get down on ourselves too easily,” said Thomas, who returns after a 71-point junior season. “If we get scored on, we just want to make sure that that next shift is ours.”
Added Plante: “That’s a real good competitive sign. We talk about it a lot – after a goal, get back to that faceoff, win the draw, get it in their end and show them that you’re not backing down. It’s easy to panic.”
As for the other question marks, Hermantown knows it has a lot of time ahead of it to work out the kinks.
“We got to find some depth and work it as we go,” Plante said. “We want to try and put this team together and find out who our players are. Obviously people are expecting a lot from us, but you know how that goes.”
“I don’t take anything for granted. You just got to enjoy the moment now.”
Hermantown built a two-goal lead by the end of the opening period, answered every pushback from Totino-Grace and came away with a 7-3 win on Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Hermantown Ice Arena.
Six players scored goals for the third-ranked Hawks, including junior winger Chris Benson, who scored twice. Andrew Mattson had a three-point night, and Matt Mensinger stopped 21 shots.
Hermantown, playing the second night of a back-to-back after beating Hopkins 5-3 in the Twin Cities on Friday, was crisp and aggressive in the first period – a good sign for a team that had two long bus trips less than 24 hour before faceoff.
Mr. Hockey hopeful Jared Thomas got the Hawks on the board 11 minutes, 35 seconds into the game with a perfect tip-in. With teammate Jeremy Amys driving wide, Thomas streaked to the top of the crease, getting there just in time to knock home Amys’ center pass.
Benson added an unassisted goal five minutes later, giving Hermantown a 2-0 lead at the end of an absolutely dominant opening 17 minutes. For the period, the Hawks outshot the Eagles 17-1.
After a T.J. Roo goal cut the Hermantown lead in half just 1 minute, 31 seconds into the middle period, the Hawks responded quickly.
Neal Pionk’s unassisted goal gave Hermantown another two-goal lead, and, since it almost immediately followed Roo’s marker, sucked away all momentum Totino-Grace had gained.
The teams traded goals before the end of the second; the Hawks outscored the Eagles 3-1 in a routine final period.
Depth and defense look to be the strengths of the Hawks this season, along with tons of senior experience and leadership. Hermantown is averaging six goals each night while only allowing two, but have shown impressive ability to respond to adversity.
Mattson, Brian LeBlanc and Jake Zeleznikar also had goals for Hermantown, who finished two-for-three on the power play.
Totino-Grace found scoring off of three-different sticks, with Andrew McDonald and Carter Roo netting the second and third goals for the Eagles (2-3-0). Davidowski was tested early and often, and finished with 33 saves.
Both teams are back in action on Tuesday.
1. Neal Pionk, Hermantown
The sophomore defenseman scored a big goal for the Hawks, answering after Totino-Grace got on the board early in the second period. He also had an assist on a power-play goal, jumped into the play often and broke up several chances in his own end.
2. Chris Benson, Hermantown
Benson’s two goals came in important situations for Hermantown. His first was late in the opening period where the Hawks struggled to find the back of the net despite 17 shots. His second was a power-play tally and the eventual game-winner.
3. Andrew Mattson, Hermantown
Not only did Mattson record three points, but he also showed good wheels and hockey sense. He was a badger on the forecheck, making it difficult for Totino-Grace to break the puck out all night.