Prep boys hockey preview: Hermantown has big expectations
Perfection is a tough act to follow. That's what Hermantown's boys hockey team found out the past two years in following up on the school's undefeated, Class A title-winning season in 2006-07. This season's team, however, has a chance at a champi...
Perfection is a tough act to follow.
That's what Hermantown's boys hockey team found out the past two years in following up on the school's undefeated, Class A title-winning season in 2006-07.
This season's team, however, has a chance at a championship sequel.
Led by high-scoring senior center Adam Krause, a future Minnesota Duluth player, the Hawks hope to contend for a second state title.
"We think about that all the time," said Krause, who has seven goals and 11 assists in the fourth-ranked Hawks' 4-1 start. "The '07 team had a lot of role players -- they had the scoring line and the hustle line. We have the same ingredients, but it's just about mental toughness and having confidence. That was a special team -- I don't think there will ever be another one like it -- but I think we can accomplish what they did."
The Hawks were impressive in defeating Superior 4-2 on Tuesday night, despite missing four players to injury and suspension. The return of 14 seniors and good depth at all positions has coach Bruce Plante sensing similarities between this team and its 2007 predecessor.
"We have good leadership at the top from our seniors, and that's what we had that year," Plante said. "But we don't know how tough we are mentally; we still have a bit of panic mode going on. That team in '07 was so tough mentally that they weren't going to get beat by anybody."
Hermantown followed its record-breaking 29-0-2 campaign in 2006-07 by going 17-10 and 24-4 the past two years.
"We have a lot of expectations on this team," Krause said. "We know we'll have some off nights, but we have to be consistent. The last couple years we haven't been consistent."
That fault doesn't pertain to Krause, who had 26 goals and 33 assists last season. Toss in fellow senior forwards Charlie Comnick, Willis Kantonen and Cody Christopherson, and the Hawks have several scoring options.
"[Krause] has it all -- size, speed, strength, vision, a little bit of everything -- and he's a good leader," Plante said. "He's a special player -- you don't get one like that very often."
Defending Section 5A champion St. Cloud Cathedral is perhaps the main obstacle in Hermantown's path, though Duluth Denfeld hopes to factor in the race despite a 5-1 loss to the Crusaders last week. The Hunters (3-2) just hope to survive a season-opening seven-game road trip before they play 16 of their final 18 games at the Heritage Center.
Seniors Keith Tomassoni (6-5-11) and Logan Talarico (2-8-10) have started strong, while Levi Talarico (5-5-10) is one of the highest-scoring freshmen in the state. But the Hunters are still trying to replace defenseman Judd Peterson and forward Josh Wentz, who transferred to Duluth Marshall before the school year.
"Any time you have any unexpected holes to fill, it takes time for kids to get up to speed," Hunters coach Kevin Smalley said. "With the quality teams we have on our schedule, there's no room for error. I feel we're competing at a high level, but we're making some mistakes that need to be corrected."
Marshall hopes to contend with Iron Range teams in 7A
Virginia-Mountain Iron-Buhl, Hibbing and International Falls should vie for Iron Range Conference top honors as well as the Section 7A title.
In order to compete with the upper echelon, Duluth Marshall coach Brendan Flaherty has been seeking the right combination of players with varying degrees of success in the early portion of the season. The Hilltoppers opened with three losses to quality opponents before scoring 24 goals against outmatched foes the past two games.
"I really feel that we are a work in progress right now. We're constantly changing our lineup and looking for better chemistry," Flaherty said. "If we can stay healthy -- we've had some kids out for various reasons -- but once we can field our entire lineup, we can begin to roll. And we'll look to do that sometime in January."
Goaltender Max Elstad, defenseman Patrick Hurley and seniors Nate Rich, Dane Morin and Max Morsette have stood out for the Hilltoppers so far.
The final season of Duluth Central hockey is off to a flying start as the Trojans have opened 3-0 for the first time in recent memory. The school is slated for closure once Denfeld's renovation project is complete, while the athletic programs are expected to merge with Denfeld beginning in 2010-11.
"If this is our last year, this is their chance to make their own piece of hockey history in the city of Duluth," said Jacob Smith, a co-coach with Louie Krenzen, who is stepping down after his second season at the helm. "A lot of kids are trying to make the most of it."
Duluth East begins quest for repeat Section 7AA title
Duluth East's run at a second consecutive Section 7AA title took a hit when junior defenseman Andy Welinski was sidelined for at least six weeks with a knee ligament injury.
Yet defense and goaltending play have been solid as the Greyhounds have allowed just 13 goals in a 6-1 start.
"We're inexperienced on the blueline without Welinski in there," coach Mike Randolph said. "We have a lot of new faces, and in our play it's shown. We've been a little inconsistent early on, but I think everybody is. It's going to come down to whether we can grow as a team and get that consistency in our game."
Despite losing Max Tardy, the 2009 News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year, to graduation and defenseman Derek Forbort to the U.S. national development program, East has kept up with last year's scoring rate through seven games. Kenny Mellin (4-6-10) and Jake Randolph (2-7-9) are the scoring leaders.
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton hopes to better an uncharacteristic six-win season a year ago, though the Lumberjacks (2-5) may be another year from contending. The team has scored just five goals in its five losses.
"We still haven't played a game for 51 minutes," coach Dave Esse said. "Unfortunately, we've been getting down in the first period and it's tough to play on your heels all the time. When you get a lead, you tend to play more on your toes than your heels. When you are playing catch-up hockey, it's hard to do."
Though Grand Rapids is just 2-3-1, the Thunderhawks have defeated third-ranked Warroad and tied Virginia-Mountain Iron-Buhl and expect to be a section contender.
With two state titles and three runner-up finishes under Jason Kalin, Superior always makes plans to be in Madison the first weekend in March. The Spartans (4-1) have lots of depth, rotating six defensemen, and feature veterans Mitch Kontny and Kellen McCoshen up front and Joel Pettingill in goal, yet overall it's a young squad that has taken several costly penalties.
"We're only going to get better, that's a positive thing," Kalin said.