Section 7A boys hockey: Hope in short supply vs. Hawks

Forget hope -- it might take perfection to unseat Hermantown in Section 7A. Ahead of the high school boys hockey playoffs, section coaches said the biggest key to making a run at the Hawks was convincing their players anything is possible, that t...

Forget hope - it might take perfection to unseat Hermantown in Section 7A.

Ahead of the high school boys hockey playoffs, section coaches said the biggest key to making a run at the Hawks was convincing their players anything is possible, that the defending state champs are human and thereby beatable.

But are they?

Saturday's snoozefest - a 9-0 blowout of Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl in a 7A semifinal at Amsoil Arena - suggests hope can only carry an opponent so far.

It didn't, for example, stop Hermantown from scoring on 28 percent of its shots through the first two periods, when the top-seeded Hawks (25-1-1) scored nine goals on 32 shots en route to their 25th consecutive victory. And it didn't help the Blue Devils endanger the net behind Frank Brimsek Award finalist Cade McEwen, who made 10 saves before giving way to Austin Hess in a running-time third.


No, hope needs a companion. Perfection and maybe a little bit of luck.

"We have a lot of high-skill guys who have played together for a long time," Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said. "And they're really confident right now."

Minnesota's top-ranked Class A team hasn't lost since its season opener, way back on Dec. 2. And the Hawks' depth - to say nothing of their high-end talent - gives them a distinct advantage most nights. They can roll three or even four lines and grind opponents into submission. Their size similarly stands out. Take burly 6-foot-3 defenseman and future Minnesota Duluth Bulldog Dylan Samberg, who controls games from the blue line. He and teammate Ryan Sandelin (Minnesota-State Mankato) are Mr. Hockey finalists.

"You run into a juggernaut like that, and you have to capitalize on any opportunity you get," VMIB coach Reed Larson said.

Before the game got away from them, the fourth-seeded Blue Devils (11-16) tested McEwen. It was a fleeting development. Sandelin and Logan Judnick tallied nine seconds apart midway through the first period to make it 3-0.

"I think the third goal they scored kind of took the wind out of our sails," Larson said.

Leading 4-0 to start the second period, Hermantown's Jesse Jacques, from the left faceoff circle, converted on Sandelin's beautiful pass out of the corner. Dylan Kolquist then stuck with his own rebound to make it 6-0, Sam High waited on the doorstep to one-time Brandon Schmidt's feed, Judnick scored again and Jacob Herter finished things with 6:39 still to play in the second.

The Hawks' puck movement was all but flawless.


"We know what we're capable of, and it's fun when we come out and do our thing," Kolquist said.

Larson and VMIB came in feeling good about their prospects. The Blue Devils have shown a knack for playing well against top teams. They lost 6-0 to Hermantown on Jan. 31, and that contest was more competitive than the final score indicates. But there's a difference between a January game and one in late February.

"It's playoffs, first of all," Plante said. "They have that target on their backs and they're pretty motivated right now."

Virginia/MIB 0-0-0-0
Hermantown 4-5-0-9
First period - 1. Dylan Kolquist (Ryan Sandelin, Trent Madill), 2:20; 2. Sandelin (Dawson Pietrusa), 7:02; 3. Logan Judnick (Darian Gotz, Tyler Watkins), 7:11; 4. Matt Valure (Judnick, Nolan Halverson), 15:09.
Second period - 5. Jesse Jacques (Sandelin, Pietrusa), 4:10; 6. Kolquist (Pietrusa), 7:16; 7. Sam High (Brandon Schmidt, Jake Hausmann), 7:52; 8. Judnick (Watkins), 8:53; 9. Jacob Herter (Gotz, Brady Baker), 10:21.
Third period - No scoring.
Saves - Cade McEwen, H, 10; Austin Hess, H, 0; Taylor Greenwalt, VMIB, 27.

Greenway 2, Hibbing-Chisholm 1

Reaching a section final is one thing for the Raiders, but doing so against the Bluejackets?

Well, that's even sweeter.

Greenway joined Hermantown in Wednesday's title tilt by slipping past Hibbing-Chisholm on the strength of Grant Troumbly's gorgeous give-and-go with Taylor Lantz early in the third period Saturday night at Amsoil, which gave the Raiders two straight wins over the Bluejackets following 21 consecutive defeats, a drought that dated to December 2003.


Michael Chupurdia put third-seeded Greenway (18-7-1) in front with a power-play goal in the first period, and No. 2 Hibbing-Chisholm (18-9) drew even on Michael Kubena's score in the second.

It stayed 1-1 into the third, when Troumbly buried Lantz's pass to lift the Raiders in front for good.

Greenway goalie Austin Anick was solid throughout, making 35 saves.

Greenway 1-0-1-2
Hibbing-Chis. 0-1-0-1
First period - 1. G, Michael Chupurdia (Grant Troumbly, Casadonte Lawson), 11:09 (pp).
Second period - 2. HC, Michael Kubena (Dylan Mattson, Alex Seppala), 14:38.
Third period - 3. G, Troumbly (Taylor Lantz, Lawson), 4:28.
Saves - Austin Anick, G, 35; Christian Renskers, HC, 22.

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