With seven minutes to play in the third period against Duluth Marshall on Thursday, Hermantown allowed the Hilltoppers to cut its lead to 4-1, giving Marshall a glimmer of hope in a game the Toppers still believed was within reach.
Instead of being taken back by the goal, the Hawks won the ensuing draw, roared into the Duluth Marshall zone and killed any hopes of a comeback with a quick goal of their own just eight seconds after the Toppers’ found the scoring column.
The third-ranked Hawks have made a habit of speedy responses, often snuffing out opponents’ momentum with a never-say-die attitude.
“That’s one thing that our team is doing great this year, we respond great,” said Hermantown’s senior defensive rock Jared Kolquist. “We just look to the guy next to us after they score and know we have to get it rolling, get after them a little more and get more aggressive.”
Hermantown used that aggressive mentality to shutdown the Duluth Marshall attack, including high-scoring Judd Peterson. The Hawks were a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, limited second and third chances in their own end and flew up the rink to keep Marshall on its heels. Because of that, the Toppers were never able to get the ball rolling.
A big reason the Hawks are nearly impossible to rattle is the deep, veteran group of blue-liners they have patrolling the point. Kolquist is just one of several experienced guys that know what style they have to play to turn the tide of a contest.
“We just want to keep it simple and get the puck out of our zone,” Kolquist said. “We have a lot of defensemen that step up in the holes, and that leads to odd-man rushes and scoring chances.”
Head coach Bruce Plante agrees with the fact that the point play of Hermantown is a key to the resiliency they possess as a team, something Plante says is nothing new for this year’s squad.
“We’ve had a tendency to wear teams down this year,” Plante said. “It nullifies what they do. You’re showing the other team that you’re not giving into them.”
“We’re strong and we’re fast, so teams have to really work hard to compete with us. We're a hard team to play against.”
Andrew Mattson had two points, five different Hermantown players recorded goals and Matt Mensinger stopped 35 shots as the No. 3-ranked Hawks beat No. 4 Duluth Marshall 5-1 on Thursday, Jan. 5, at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth.
Following a scoreless first period that saw the Hilltoppers outshoot the Hawks 15-9, Hermantown came out in the second and blew the game open.
Paul Herrold got the scoring started with a wrister from the right circle 5 minutes, 40 seconds into the middle period. The goal game just a minute or so after Duluth Marshall thought they had broken the 0-0 deadlock.
As the Toppers skated into the Hermantown zone on a 2-on-1, Hawks’ senior forward Jared Thomas dove to break up a centering pass, missed the puck and went sliding into the net as Marshall’s Michael Damberg appeared to knock home the backdoor pass. The referee rules the net had been dislodged prior to the puck entering the net, and it was rule no-goal.
With Hermantown striking soon after, the momentum clearly shifted to the Hawks. Jake Zeleznikar dangled through all three zones and scored two minutes after Herrold’s goal, and then Bo Gronseth tallied with 53 seconds left in the second to give Hermantown the 3-0 advantaged going into the third.
Chris Benson and Mattson scored goals for Hermantown in the final period, giving the Hawks a convincing win while upping their record to a perfect 11-0-0.
Steve Long Jr. scored the lone marker for Duluth Marshall (9-5-0), while Christian Coffman turned away 29 shots between the pipes.
Hermantown will travel to International Falls on Saturday before a showdown with Grand Rapids at the IRA Civic Center next Tuesday.
The Hilltoppers will make the long trip to Rochester to square off with Lourdes on Saturday.
1. Jared Kolquist, Hermantown
The senior blue-liner was rock-solid all over the ice for the Hawks on Thursday night. He had a pretty assist on the fifth Hermantown goal, setting up Mattson with a tape-to-tape cross-ice pass. Kolquist was quick in transition and aggressive on the puck, too, keeping the pressure on the Duluth Marshall defenders while creating space for his teammates. Defensively, Kolquist’s strength and hockey sense helped the Hawks limit second and third opportunities, allowing goalie Matt Mensinger to recover when he gave up rebounds.
2. Matt Mensinger, Hermantown
Mensinger used his long legs and big frame to get in front of pucks all night, coming up huge in the first period and on all five Duluth Marshall power plays. Because of his size, he was able to take away the lower half of the net and kick away rebounds, making it tough for the Toppers to crash the net for extra chances. Along with the Hermantown defense, Mensinger kept Duluth Marshall off the board until late in the game.
3. Andrew Mattson, Hermantown
Playing on the Hawks’ talented top line, Mattson showed great work ethic and creativity. Mattson scored a goal and added a helper, used his speed to get to loose pucks quickly and made nice passes to give his linemates scoring looks. The transition game of Hermantown is deadly, and when Mattson plays like he did tonight opposing teams have a rough time slowing down the Hawks.