Wednesday's prep boys hockey playoff game: Hermantown vs. Monticello
HERMANTOWN (20-6-2) VS. MONTICELLO (19-7-2)
What: Class A state tournament quarterfinal
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Outlook: If these clubs come close to matching the drama they produced in last season's state title game, won 4-3 in double overtime by Hermantown on Dylan Samberg's wrist shot, look out. That thriller capped a wild week in St. Paul for the Hawks, who went to OT in all three rounds. Hermantown went double overtime again to beat Greenway in the Section 7A final. The two-time defending Class A champs are in their ninth consecutive tournament and 15th overall, but their first under Patrick Andrews, who replaced Bruce Plante as coach. Hermantown rallied past Greenway to make this latest trip a reality, and Andrews admitted the thought of the streak ending in his first go-round on the bench carried some pressure. "Everything's been going the right way, but for us to not get it done, the only change would've been the coach, right? Everything else has been the same for 20-some years. Bring in a new coach and now you can't get it done. So, yeah, there was some pressure," he said. Tyler Watkins (25 goals, 41 assists, 66 points) scored twice against the Moose last March. Blake Biondi (27-27—54) leads the top-seeded Hawks in goals. They have won eight in a row and last failed to reach the championship game in 2009. ... Despite coming tantalizingly close to a state championship in 2017, Monticello, which co-ops with Maple Lake, remains in Class A. The cooperative included Annandale last year, and the combined enrollment of the three schools was nearly 2,000. Together, Monticello and Maple Lake have 1,338 students, well north of the Class A cutoff — 1,245. But they petitioned the Minnesota State High School League to stay in the smaller classification. The Moose, whose fans stole the show in the program's Xcel Energy Center debut, breezed through Section 5A. They are unseeded and led offensively by Troy Dahlheimer (21-24—45). The Hawks are familiar with goalie Tyler Klatt (2.25 goals-against average, .906 save percentage), who stopped 52 of their 56 shots last March. Ben Ward, a St. Cloud State commit who had a goal and an assist against Hermantown, skipped his senior season to skate for the Minnesota Wilderness in the North American Hockey League. Tonight's winner faces either Thief River Falls or Alexandria Area in Friday's semifinals.
Quotable: "I don't know if it's a random draw, but it's ratings gold for the high school league." — Andrews on the Hawks and Moose rematching in the quarterfinals
TV: WDIO Ch. 10
Radio: WKLK-FM 96.5/KJOQ-AM 1490/KJOQ-FM 100.9
Internet: Prep45.com ($10.95 per day; $30.96 for four-day pass)