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Hermantown expected to stay in Class 1A; Blake could be moving up

By Loren Nelson, 03/07/17, 4:45PM CST


Hawks' run of small-school dominance likely to continue; Bears seem to be positioning themselves for jump to 2A

David La Vaque has covered all but one state hockey tournament game since 2009 and has worked as a Star Tribune high school sports reporter since 2004. His favorite tournament experiences include cheering for alma mater St. Paul Johnson in 1991 and staying for most of the Apple Valley/Duluth East marathon semifinal game in 1996. Loren Nelson has covered every state tournament since 2009 as the national media editor for Sport Ngin. He attended many, many other Tourney games as a high schooler from the far northern reaches of Minnesota making the annual pilgrimage south to the old St. Paul Civic Center in the 1980s.

Victory celebrations are nothing new for Hermantown, which is making its eighth straight state Class 1A tournament appearance. The Hawks are expected to stay in Class 1A for at least the next two seasons. Photo by Matt Moses, SportsEngine

Monday at midnight was the deadline for schools to submit to the Minnesota State High School League their intentions of opting up a class in boys’ hockey (and all other sports).

Hermantown, it seems, is staying put in Class 1A. Blake could be moving up to Class 2A, and Duluth Marshall, despite rumors to the contrary, is staying in Class 2A.

“We are not going to go up, I don’t believe,” said Bruce Plante, who has guided Hermantown to each of the last seven state Class 1A championship games.

The Hawks have a 31-game winning streak against Class 1A opponents. They haven't lost to a Class 1A program in the regular season since January 11, 2013 (a 5-4 overtime loss to St. Cloud Cathedral), an unbeaten stretch of 56 games.

Hermantown activities director Beth Clark declined to reveal on Monday afternoon what decision had been made regarding the Hawks’ status.

“We are going to let the process take place, and when the state high school league reveals the new section assignments, at that time the media will be notified,” said Clark, adding the she has been in discussion with Plante and others in the community for more than a year about whether the Hawks should move up. “We’ve been thinking about it for the last 18 months. It’s not something we take lightly.”

Blake seemingly is positioning itself for a jump to Class 2A based on its schedule for next season (Class 2A powers Wayzata and Edina have been added as opponents). Multiple sources said the Bears plan to play in Class 2A next season. However, Blake athletic director Nick Rathmann said on Tuesday afternoon that no final decisions had been made. Rathmann said he received a deadline extension from the MSHSL and that the school likely will submit its intentions for multiple sports, pending the approval this week from school administrators, on Friday.

“I’m pretty sure I know what we are doing,” Rathmann said. “I’ve given my recommendation. But until we have reached our extension deadline, that could change.”

Duluth Marshall, with an enrollment of 244, just completed its second season opting up in Class 2A. Playing a schedule loaded with Class 2A opponents, the Hilltoppers went 13-11-1 in the regular season and lost 2-1 in double overtime to Cloquet in the Section 7 quarterfinals. Cloquet, in turn, lost 1-0 to Duluth East in the section semifinals.

“We’re staying Class AA. You can’t believe hardly anything you read on the internet,” Duluth Marshall coach Brendan Flaherty said about message board chatter speculating the Hilltoppers would be moving back down to 1A. “We’re going to give it (two more years), and we are going to evaluate it after that.

“We were above .500 against a tough schedule, and we only had two seniors on the ice against Cloquet. We feel we are right in the mix.”

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