Sentimental favorites don’t exist in the Class 1A championship game on Saturday.
Top seed Hermantown and No. 2 seed Breck will play for the small-school title. In response, hockey fans lit up social media Friday with their disdain for both successful programs for remaining in Class 1A.
Both programs have given the haters plenty of material by asserting their dominance thus far. The Hawks have taken six-goal leads in the third period of the past two tournament rounds, triggering a mercy rule that prevents the clock from stopping. Breck, meanwhile, has yet to allow a goal.
Breck, the Golden Valley-based private school, won four championships between 2000 and 2010. Hermantown won it all in 2007 and took second the past six consecutive seasons. Finding much joy for Saturday’s showdown beyond those schools is tough.
Breck coach Les Larson has said he is open to the idea of opting up to Class 2A. On Friday, Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said of his program moving up: “That might happen. I don’t know. I guess we’ve got to win one of these to really take a look at it.”
An ally emerged in St. Paul Academy coach Matt Funk, who spoke without prompting Friday in defense of Hermantown, a Duluth suburb. “They’re great for Class 1A hockey,” said Funk, whose Spartans were crushed 7-1 by the Hawks in the semifinals.
Funk, a former assistant coach at St. Thomas Academy, knows how it feels to be hated. Five titles in eight years — three at Hermantown’s expense — made the Mendota Heights military academy the most-loathed 1A program.
Hermantown, Funk argued, should not be viewed the same as a metro-area private school.
“The state puts a lot of pressure on Bruce and his program to move up,” Funk said. “They’re still a small town. I like the fact that they’re in Class 1A.”
Can a program outgrow Class 1A based on its success?
“It’s up to the individual school,” Funk said. “I think we’re in for a great championship hockey game [Saturday]. And I think the state should sit back and enjoy that.”