Hermantown's ‘revenge mission’ nearly complete
Second-ranked Warroad is the only team that stands in the Hawks’ way of redemption after a disappointing end to the 2021 season.
ST. PAUL — Hermantown players and coaches were all smiles following a seven-goal outburst in the Class A semifinals against Alexandria Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
With the 7-1 win over the Cardinals, Hermantown clinched a spot in the state championship against No. 2 Warroad, a matchup both teams have looked forward to since the Hawks’ 2-1 overtime victory Jan. 15.
The win leaves the Hawks just one victory away from achieving a goal they locked in on last spring after a disappointing end to the 2021 season.
Much of Hermantown’s varsity team was ruled out of the state quarterfinal last year after a COVID-19 exposure during the Section 7A semifinal against Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl.
The only varsity player available was then-sophomore Minnesota Duluth commit Zam Plante, who led the junior varsity squad on a valiant effort that ended in a 7-3 defeat to Dodge County.
The sting of that defeat stayed with Hermantown throughout the 2021-22 season. Defenseman — and fellow UMD recruit — Ty Hanson was thinking about the 2021 seniors, like Joey Pierce, that didn’t get to return.
“As a kid you dream of coming here since the day you can walk and that was taken from us last year,” Hanson said. “We’re doing it for the seniors we had last year — we’re kind of on a revenge mission for them, so it’s great to be back here.”
While seven different Hawks scored in the win over Alexandria, it was the defense that made the difference. After Alexandria scored an early goal, Hermantown allowed just two shots between the 2:09 mark of the first period and the 2:04 mark of the third period when Dominic Thomas scored to put the game into running time.
Hermantown coach Pat Andrews knows his forwards get a lot of attention, but the defense is where it starts for the Hawks.
“These guys are so good on the back end and they don’t get a lot of kudos — and they should,” Andrews said. “They’re phenomenal defensemen and I’ve said since the start of the season that’s the strength of our team. We have phenomenal forwards, but I really love our back end and you can’t win games without a good back end.”
Andrews said he looks at “tendencies” for opponents, but the Hawks want to force Warroad to play their game with using gap control to force turnovers and get the offense going the opposite way.
Warroad didn’t have as easy a time getting to the finals, needing an overtime goal from Matt Hard to snag a 5-4 victory over Mahtomedi in the other semifinal.
The Warriors will pose a tougher challenge for Hermantown, with their own two Division I recruits in forwards Daimon Gardner and Jayson Shaugabay. Gardner is headed to Clarkson University next year and Shaugabay will join Plante and Hanson at UMD in two years.
Warroad coach Jay Hardwick said he told his team defense will be key in the rematch against the Hawks.
“I always preach we need to be very good defensively,” Hardwick said. “That’s what I told them in the locker room after the game (against Monticello), if we do the right things defensively, we’re hard to play against in our end. We’re going to score goals, we’re going to get chances, it’s just sometimes we get a little sloppy defensively because we thinking we’re just going to score goals.”
The puck drops on the Class A championship at noon Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.