Prep boys hockey: On night of champions, East hockey makes surprising return to form
In a second matchup at Essentia Duluth Heritage Center featuring a reigning state champion on Tuesday night, Hermantown beat Duluth Denfeld 8-1 in a rematch of the Section 7A championship game.
DULUTH — It doesn’t happen often, but Duluth’s Heritage Center hosted back-to-back games featuring the two defending state champions Tuesday.
In the early game, Noah Teng scored twice and had an assist to lead Duluth East to a stunning 5-1 victory over Andover, the reigning Class AA champion and seventh-ranked team in the state. After the Greyhounds and Huskies cleared the ice, reigning Class A champions Hermantown blew out Duluth Denfeld 8-1 in a Section 7A championship game rematch.
Teng’s second period goal came just 1 minute, 34 seconds after Wyatt Peterson scored to put the Greyhounds up 2-0. Seven minutes later, Teng sent a pass up to Cole Christian to with 5:32 left in the period, extending the lead to four heading to the third.
For Teng, it wasn’t just a big win for a team that lost its first eight contests last season, it was the biggest win in years.
“It’s our biggest win since Ryder Donovan’s senior year,” Teng said. “We haven’t had a quality win since then — we haven’t beaten a good, state tournament team since then.”
Donovan was a captain on the 2018-19 Greyhounds team that last won a section title. He played three seasons with Wisconsin before transferring to Vermont earlier this year.
Andover has won the two intervening Section 7AA championships and the 2022 state championship. Huskies coach Mark Manney thought his team came out “flat,” but the Greyhounds have improved since Andover’s 8-0 regular-season blowout last year.
“They’ve got guys who can play — they have skill,” Manney said. “I really liked their spacing and how they work. They seem to dump pucks into the right area and they won a lot of the races to the puck and if they didn’t win the race, they won the battle when they got there. I was very impressed with their team and felt like they might have a lot of potential.”
Duluth East (4-5) struggled to just eight wins last season, but has been far more competitive in the early season and could have a few more wins if not for some defensive lapses, particularly against Grand Rapids in a 3-2 loss on Nov. 29.
“I think we’ve got a team that’s finally starting to figure out the defensive end of the game,” Greyhounds coach Steve Pitoscia said. “If you look at the Rapids game, there were two goals they scored where we didn’t pick up guys around the net and one where we didn’t pick up a guy on the track and, like we saw, those were the differences in the game tonight.”
Pitoscia thought the team came ready to play after some weather-related cancellations last week, but he cautioned anyone from reading too much into a single win.
“It means a lot tonight because it gives our guys confidence, but at the end of the day we still haven’t done anything,” Pitoscia said. “We beat another high school hockey team in December — we’re not going to start scheduling a parade or anything…Confidence hopefully breeds success, one thing I’ve heard people say, ‘They just need to learn how to win,’ and I think we took steps today. We showed we can win one game, but now can we put a couple together and show that consistency that every team needs to be successful.”
Duluth East will play at Duluth Marshall at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Hunters can’t measure up to Hermantown
In the nightcap, Hermantown — the second-ranked Class A team in Minnesota — skated past Duluth Denfeld in a rematch from the Section 7A championship game.
The Hawks seemed to pick up where they left off from an 11-0 drubbing in March's section final. Senior Wyatt Carlson scored three times and had an assist, and his blue line teammate Josh Kauppinen scored twice and assisted on Carlson’s second goal. The Hawks’ blue line also got a goal and two assists from Matt Kauppinen.
“The Kaups and Carlie are super fast — deceptively fast,” Hermantown coach Pat Andrews said. “Carlie is like energy, so you know he’s coming up fast and the Kauppinens are smooth fast, so that line is going 100 miles an hour and it doesn’t look like it.”
Defensively, the Hawks were sharp, allowing just 13 shots, including just two in the second period. Hermantown’s penalty kill has also been great so far this year, allowing just one power play goal through five games this season.
“We just really try to take away time and pressure in the middle of the rink with tight gaps and then back pressure through the middle of the ice, so you’re catching forwards from behind,” Andrews said.
Hermantown (4-0-1) is scheduled to play at Orono at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Duluth Denfeld (4-3-1) will play at Grand Rapids at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Duluth East 1-3-1—5
First period goals — 1. DE, Thomas Gunderson (Cole Christian, Grady Downs).
Second period goals — 2. DE, Wyatt Peterson (Grant Winkler, Gunderson), 2:40 (pp); 3. DE, Noah Teng (Luke Rose), 4:14; 4. DE, Christian (Teng, Peterson), 11:28.
Third period goals — 5. A, Ben Doll (Cooper Conway, Drew Law), 6:43; 6. DE, Teng, 10:28.
Saves — Beau Altman, A, 25; Kole Kronstedt, DE, 21.
Duluth Denfeld 0-1-0—1
First period goals — 1. H, Josh Kauppinen (Wyatt Carlson) 2:59.
Second period goals — 2. H, J. Kauppinen (Dallas Vieau), 3:00 (sh); 3. H, Matt Kauppinen (Weston Bohlman, Nolan Barker), 9:02; 4. H, Carlson (Vieau, George Peterson), 10:47 (pp); 5. DD, John Scott (Nick McGillivray, Jake Feiro), 13:41.
Third period goals — 6. H, Mason Sundbom (Aaron Evjen), 2:05; 7. H, Sundbom (Evan Gunderson), 4:59; 8. H, Carlson (J. Kauppinen, M. Kauppinen), 6:21; 9. H, Carlson (M. Kauppinen, Gunderson), 10:42.
Saves — Garron Opsahl, H, 12; Connor Doyle, DD, 24; Martin Hoffman, DD, 4.
This story originally omitted a team name. It was updated at 7:57 a.m. Dec. 21 with the proper name. The News Tribune regrets the error.