Duluth Marshall, Hermantown to square off in state boys hockey quarterfinals

Discussions about hockey invariably arose when Hermantown coach Bruce Plante and Duluth Marshall coach Brendan Flaherty sat together in a duck blind last fall.

Discussions about hockey invariably arose when Hermantown coach Bruce Plante and Duluth Marshall coach Brendan Flaherty sat together in a duck blind last fall.

Hopefully, since guns were present, it didn't revolve around the public vs. private school debate.

Plante has been an outspoken critic of certain private schools, such as two-time defending Class A champion St. Thomas Academy, playing at the small-school level. The Cadets, who are favored to win their third consecutive title at this week's high school boys state tournament, recently announced they will move up to Class AA in 2013-14.

"They belong up; everyone's known for a long time that they belong up," Plante said of the team Hermantown has lost to in the past two state finals. "I commend them for it, but they should have done it sooner."

Now Flaherty has chimed in with some advice for Hermantown, the Hilltoppers' opponent in today's quarterfinals.


"I think Hermantown should move to double-A, that's my opinion," Flaherty said this week. "They are competing in double-A at the youth level and are in state every year. To me that's a double-A program, but it's not my business. I hear (Plante) talk about St. Thomas, but I see no reason why they can't make the move, too.

"There's absolutely no reason why they cannot compete at the double-A level. None. They have all the resources."

Plante doesn't necessarily disagree, saying the Hawks have been moving in that direction.

"We're improving our schedule as we go and that might be something we do down the road," he said. "We only had 38 kids out this year, so I don't know if we're quite ready for that on a year-to-year basis. We're getting close to that and we will explore it.

"Would you rather be one of the better single-A teams or an average double-A team? That's the question that we have to answer."

Other questions will be answered today when the Lake Superior Conference rivals take the ice at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center. Hermantown (23-4-1) and Marshall (16-12) meet at approximately 1:15 p.m. in the day's second quarterfinal.

Players on the two sides don't necessarily want to be drawn into the discussion, but they have their opinions, too.

"We have fewer kids in our school (grades) nine through 12 than Hermantown does in 11th and 12th grade combined," Marshall senior right winger Kris McKinzie said. "They should move up before us."


Not so, says Hermantown senior left winger Chris Benson.

"Just because we've had our run the last few years doesn't mean we should move up," he said. "Marshall had its run a few years ago (with three straight runner-up finishes) so why aren't they playing double-A? No, we shouldn't be playing double-A."

The private school debate isn't the only story line the teams disagree about. Here's the coaches' take on playing each other again (Hermantown won the regular-season matchup 4-3 on Jan. 3):

"I don't like it because it's two North teams going at it, and Brendan and I are buddies," Plante said. "I'm not excited about playing the same team that we've played already, but that's how the draw went."

"I think it's a good thing," Flaherty said. "We're playing well and we're confident right now. We're just going to let it fly."

The loss started the Hilltoppers off to a 1-7 record in January. They flip-flopped that in February by going 8-1 and winning Section 7.

"I don't think there was a more drastic turnaround in the state," Flaherty said.

That has Marshall's players excited for a rematch.


"I feel like it's an advantage because when we played them earlier we had a lot of guys injured and sick. Now we're healthy and back to normal," McKinzie said. "Everyone wanted to play them. I don't think they wanted us, but they've got us."

The winner advances to Friday's semifinals, likely against second-ranked Breck, another Twin Cities-based private school.

What To Read Next
Get Local