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Hawks ease into semis

By Star Tribune and MN Hockey Hub staff, 03/06/13, 4:30PM CST


Hermantown dismantles Duluth Marshall as it aims for fourth straight title game apperance

Hermantown's Bo Gronseth (5) directs the puck at Duluth Marshall goaltender Caden Flaherty during Wednesday's state Class 1A quarterfinals. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen

Once known as the “Diaper Line” Hermantown’s trio of Chris Benson, Bo Gronseth and Travis Koepke is all grown up.

Each senior forward scored a goal as the third-seeded Hawks defeated Duluth Marshall 3-0 in Wednesday’s Class 1A state hockey quarterfinal at the Xcel Energy Center. The three goals set a program single-season record with 85 goals by a line.

Hawks (24-4-1) coach Bruce Plante said the linemates were “little fuzzy things” when they played on the third line as sophomores. Their fuzz has become scruff, their contributions more significant. Benson scored his team-leading 30th goal of the season with Koepke (29) and Gronseth (26) not far behind.

Gronseth and Benson tallied power-play goals. Koepke scored on a great individual effort. Going hard to the net, he kicked a rebound to his forehand and buried his chance.

The Hawks’ defense made sure the lead stood, keeping the team on pace for a fourth-consecutive championship game appearance.

Goaltender Adam Smith made 17 saves for a shutout in his first state tournament start.

“They’re very suffocating defensively,” Duluth Marshall coach Brendan Flaherty said. “We just didn’t have a lot of places to go.”

The teams, whose schools sit just seven miles apart, met in January. Hermantown won 4-3. Both coaches said their teams improved and Hermantown’s defense served as a prime example.

“We’re taking fewer risks and we’ve become less vulnerable,” Plante said. “Once we started making more of an effort and will defensively we became a tough team to play against.”

DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune

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Statistics, Summary

1. Bo Gronseth, Hermantown
The senior was forward banged home a rebound to break a scoreless tie 3 minutes, 34 seconds into the second period and assisted on linemate Travis Koepke’s goal just more than four minutes later.

2. Travis Koepke, Hermantown
The Hawks’ top line has been dominant all season. Why should that change now? It didn’t, as Koepke followed his second-period goal by assisting on linemate Chris Benson’s power-play goal early in the third period. Koepke, Gronseth and Benson each had a goal and an assist.

3. Neal Pionk, Hermantown
The Hawks can play some defense, too. The Minnesota-Duluth bound Pionk, a junior defenseman, elevated his already outstanding play in helping shut down Duluth Marshall at every turn. The Hilltoppers managed just 17 shots on goal, and Pionk’s in-your-face toughness was a big reason why.

-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub

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