Hermantown scored three unanswered goals in the second period and another in the third period to beat Grand Rapids 5-1 on Tuesday, Jan. 11, at Hermantown Arena.
“It was a great game and we played great.” Hermantown goalie Connor Lucas said. “We did everything right – we beat them to the loose pucks and put some into the back of the net.”
Hermantown’s Garrett Skrbich scored four goals, with two coming in the second period.
“Hermantown stepped up the game and at times I thought we played pretty well,” said Grand Rapids head coach Bruce LaRoque about the second period. “We just weren’t taking shots when we could have and some breaks didn’t go our way and Hermantown was able to capitalize on their opportunities.”
The other difference-maker was Lucas, who stopped 31 of 32 shots.
The only flaw in Lucas’ performance came at the 3:21 mark of the first period at the hands of the Thunderhawks' Jace Luoma.
“I was worried about the first period a lot because [Grand Rapids] is such a good team and I knew they were going to come after us hard, and I didn’t know how our guys were going to respond to it,” Hermantown head coach Bruce Plante said. “We made it through the first period and I knew we could play with them and our guys had built up some confidence.”
“Just keep working hard” coach LaRoque told his players during the second intermission, “You play hard for three periods every night and maybe we’ll get better along the way. You win some and you lose some, but you battle together and stay together no matter if you win or lose.”
Grand Rapids outshot Hermantown 14-7 in the third period, but the only goal of the period went to Hermantown as Skrbich capped his four-goal night/ The final shots on net were 32-28 in favor of Grand Rapids.
“I thought we played solid at times, but there were some breakdowns” LaRoque said. “Hermantown was certainly a good team, which we expected. We worked hard all night and all around the rink but they really boxed us out well in the defensive zone."
Despite being happy about being up 4-1 midway through the second period, coach Plante thought the game play was still a little in favor of Grand Rapids.
“When we got the lead it actually kind of worked against us,” Plante said. “The last seven minutes of that period it felt like we were killing a penalty the whole time. Everybody was playing defensively and everybody stopped moving their feet.”
Garret Skrbich and Connor Lucas stepped up in a big way to help the Hawks defeat the Thunderhawks, but this is something coach Plante is used to.
“Skrbich’s been a real good leader for us and a great captain,” Plante sad. “He’s done a lot of those kinds of things this year in big games and when we’ve needed him he’s stepped up.”
Hermantown’s next game is a big one as it faces section foe St. Cloud Cathedral on Friday, Jan. 14, in St. Cloud. Grand Rapids also has a big sectional test as it returns to the Duluth area to play Duluth East on Jan. 13.
1. Garrett Skrbich, Hermantown
Skrbich scored four goals to make the difference in a 5-1 game. He scored the first two goals and the last two goals for the Hawks. Skrbich’s total points on the year is at 35 points.
2. Connor Lucas, Hermantown
Lucas stopped 31 of 32 shots in the game including some superhuman saves at the end of the second period and throughout the third period to keep the Thunderhawks off the score sheet. Lucas is 10-0-1 in between the pipes on the season.
3. Jace Luoma, Grand Rapids
Luoma scored the only goal of the game for the Thunderhawks to keep them in the game until midway through the second period. Luoma has 10 points on the season.