Hermantown comes out flying, zooms into state semifinals
The Hawks got four first-period goals — including two from Zam Plante — in the rout of New Prague in the Class A quarterfinal.
ST. PAUL — Fans had barely settled into their seats at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul when the onslaught began Wednesday.
Hermantown’s Wyatt Carlson scored a power play goal 1 minute, 36 seconds into the game and by the 3:01 mark, Zam Plante and Dominic Thomas had both added goals.
The three-goal barrage early in the first period powered Hermantown to a 5-1 win over New Prague in the Class A state quarterfinal.
“We’ve been starting fast lately — in the section final we started fast and the same thing happened today,” Hermantown coach Pat Andrews said. “We got an early power play and everyone just relaxed. You could tell they were on their heels and we have been really good when teams have been on their heels and this team has been really good at pouncing on an opportunity.
The Trojans were overwhelmed early with Hermantown’s speed and the defense had trouble clearing pucks for Carter Puente, leaving him to fend off multiple Hawks shots during the first period.
Zam Plante scored later in the period, but after the initial Hermantown assault, the Trojan defense stiffened.
“We’d love to have that first seven minutes back, but I think we got caught up in the moment a little bit — which we encouraged our guys to do,” New Prague coach Brad Drazan said. “Once we settled down a little bit, I thought that we did some really good things. We blocked shots, we clogged the middle and did stuff we wanted to do.”
Will Andersen got a shot by Hermantown goalie Dane Callaway on a power play late in the first period, but more scoring chances were hard to come by in the final two periods.
New Prague’s defense played better in the second period, limiting the number of good looks Hermantown had, but the Trojans also struggled to generate offensive chances of their own.
While the Hermantown offense sputtered a little in the second period, the Hawks defense was as stingy as it’s been all season.
“We weren’t getting that second chance and controlling offensively, but they got very little defensively, because I thought our gaps were great and that’s a credit to our D,” Andrews said. “Our offense gets all the credit, but we have phenomenal defensemen that make it really hard on teams because our gap control is so good. They look up and they have a white jersey coming at them, where normally you have a little bit of time and space to get your head up and make a play underneath.”
What’s more, the Hermantown defense helps get the offense going, according to Zam Plante.
“We can’t get up the ice fast without them,” he said. “On the first goal, Ty (Hanson) made a great chipping the puck to me to help us get up the ice and get it to Kohanski.”
In the third period, Hermantown continued to pepper Puente with multiple shots almost every time the Hawks got into the New Prague zone.
Drazan agreed that the Hermantown defense was key to the win and kept the Trojans off balance.
“Their forwards deserve all the compliments in the world,“ Drazan said. “But I was really impressed with their D-men, too, to be able to hold the puck. Our forwards would get up in the play and then the D would beat us with a pass and then they’re just off to the races. I think that put us on our heels a little bit and it’s hard to play defense as much as we did.”
Puente stood strong under the assault, however, allowing just one goal from Max Plante. The Hawks outshot New Prague 17-1 in the final period.
Hermantown allowed just five shots in the final two periods and the Trojans never really threatened to get back in the game.
Zam Plante led Hermantown with two goals and an assist.
Callaway finished with 12 saves for the Hawks, while Puente made 42 saves for New Prague. Both teams got their second goalies into the game in the third period for some work and state tournament experience.
Andrews was happy with his team as a whole and the chances they created, but most of his praise was for his defensemen.
“I’ve said from the start of the season that’s the strength of our team,” Andrews said. “We have phenomenal forwards, but I love our back end. You can win games without having a good back end and we have a really good back end.”