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Hermantown wins eighth straight edging Duluth Marshall in Hilltopper Holiday Classic

By Jimmy Gilligan, SportsEngine, 12/29/16, 12:45PM CST


Hawks goalie Cade McEwen stopped 19 of 20 shots to lead his club past the Hilltoppers 3-1.

Hermantown Senior Dylan Samberg scored the opening goal and the Hawks never looked back winning 3-1 against Duluth Marshall Thursday night. Photo By Matthew Moses, SportsEngine

Senior goalie Cade McEwen of Hermantown with one of his 19 saves on a shot from Marshall's Willy Stauber. Photo By Matthew Moses, SportsEngine

Sophomore Peter Hansen had the only goal for Duluth Marshall in the Hilltopper Holiday Classic. Photo By Matthew Moses, SportsEngine

There’s no championship hangover for Hermantown, but after an 0-1-1 start to the season, that didn’t appear to be the case.

Coming off their first Class 1A state championship after six straight seasons of finishing as runners-up, the Hawks looked to be dragging their feet, not unlike last year’s Class 2A champion Wayzata (which is 3-5 this year).

Since the slow start, Hermantown has won eight straight after defeating Duluth Marshall 4-3 Thursday night, and claiming the Hilltopper Holiday Classic title.

The Hawks, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A in the state coaches' poll, haven’t lost to a Class 1A team in the regular season since 2013. They fell to Class 2A Wayzata to open the year, but were able to defeat the Hilltoppers (5-5) 3-1, who moved up to Class 2A last season, in a previous matchup on Dec. 8.

Defense was the deciding factor for the Hawks against the Hilltoppers.

“That’s a huge part of our team,” Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said. “Our defensemen are as good as any team. Even against high-quality teams, we’ve been pretty good about not giving that real good shot, and we have three sophomores back there."

Senior goaltender Cade McEwen serves as the backbone of Hermantown's defense with a 1.30 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. He had 19 saves against Duluth Marshall. 

Duluth Marshall senior goalie Cam Brandt made 32 saves.

Hermantown’s defense is the catalyst for the offense.

After losing last year’s defensive stalwarts Wyatt Aamodt (a Minnesota State commit currently playing for the Chicago Steel of the USHL), and Eric Gotz (who is playing for the Minnesota Wilderness of the NAHL), senior Dylan Samberg stepped up to fill the void for Hermantown (8-1-1).

Samberg, who scored the first goal against the Hilltoppers, will join fellow Hermantown defenseman Neal Pionk with the Duluth Bulldogs in the coming seasons.

“You just hope they come along. We have a lot of kids playing hockey in Hermantown, we have the outdoor rinks, and all these kids learn to play outdoors, and that’s where they learn those special skills,” Plante said.

If their play in this week’s Hilltopper Holiday Classic was any indication, the Hawks weren’t satisfied with just one state championship last season -- they appear to have left that chip from six straight second-place finishes on their shoulders.

They just hope that the old adage "defense wins championships" rings true for a second straight season.

First Report

Senior goaltender Cade McEwen stopped 19 of 20 shots as Hermantown won the Hilltopper Holiday Classic with a 3-1 victory over Duluth Marshall at Mars Lakeview Arena Thursday night. 

It was Hermantown's second win over Duluth Marshall (5-5) in the past three weeks for the Hawks (8-1-1), who also picked up their eighth-straight win.

Hermantown senior captain Dylan Samberg scored his club's first period goal, beating Cam Brandt on the low glove side on a rush. The Hawks, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A in the state coaches' poll, quickly added to the lead in the first 90 seconds of the second period as Jesse Jacques scored a short-handed breakaway goal to take a 2-0 lead. 

Overall, Hermantown’s penalty kill dominated special teams play, garnering a number of offensive chances, as well as killing off all three penalties.

The Hilltoppers had nothing to show on the scoreboard in the opening period, but Peter Hansen cut the deficit in half with a glove-side snipe at 9:05 of the second period. Hansen’s goal sparked intensity from both sides, making for a more physical pace.

Despite plenty of chances either way, Ryan Sandelin’s empty net goal was the only tally of the third period.

Duluth Marshall senior goalie Cam Brandt made 32 saves.

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