East Grand Forks must be an awfully talented team to supplant the Hermantown Hawks as the No. 1 team in Class 1A.
The Hawks were the top-ranked team until tying Duluth Denfeld 4-4 on Monday and losing 5-3 to Grand Rapids on Wednesday, and slipped to No. 2 in Thursday’s poll.
Hermantown certainly performed like the top 1A team in a 3-1 win over the Brainerd Warriors Friday night at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
Displaying precision passing, swift skating and smothering defense, the Hawks seized a 2-0 lead and limited Brainerd to 26 shots, while firing 35 at Warriors’ goalie Brady Mick.
The Hawks have finished second in the last four 1A state tournaments. They have been to state seven times since 2001. Veteran Hawks coach Bruce Plante said this season has been a pleasant surprise.
“It’s kind of a rebuilding year,” he said. “Actually, we lost a lot of good players from last year. We’ve had a fine season considering all of that. We’ve had some Bantam kids that came up, we’ve had some JV guys step in, we are a work in progress, but we’ve gotten better as we’ve went, so we have high expectations again to try and get (to state). I think we’re in the ballpark because we’ve been pretty good.”
Plante said the Hawks needed a win after not playing particularly well Monday and Wednesday.
“We were pretty tired and beat up,” he said. “We had a couple guys out of the lineup, so some new guys had to get in there and play. But I thought we had a little bit more energy tonight than we had the last two games. We’ve had this little sickness going on, so this was a huge win for us. That was a great team that we played.”
The loss snapped Brainerd’s 5-game win streak and was its first loss in eight games (6-1-1), a stretch during which the Warriors have played some of their best hockey.
“I thought it was a good up and down game,” Warriors coach Jim Archibald said. “They’re a great team. We wish we could play 25 games against teams like that. That game did nothing but make us better. That’s what we’re looking for, that’s what we need. Going down the stretch here that’s what we want. I think it was good for us.”
Shots favored Hermantown 9-8 in a free skating first period during which each team had its chances.
Ryan Kero opened the scoring at 8:37 of the first. With both teams a man short, he redirected a pass past Mick.
The Warriors failed to capitalize on two power plays in the first, but flicked some hard shots that challenged Hawks goalie Adam Smith. Mick, meanwhile, blocked a few close blasts to his chest.
Mick withstood a volley of Hermantown shots early in the second, making a nifty glove save on Kori Ochs before Kero fired one off his mask.
The Hawks finally got one past Mick at 9:03 of the second for a 2-0 lead. On a power play, inside a faceoff circle, Eric Gotz wristed a shot into the net.
The Hawks minimized Brainerd’s offensive opportunities until Chris Pohlkamp tallied on a power play at 13:31 of the second on a high slap shot about 30 feet in front of Adam Smith. Brainerd was limited to eight shots in the second while the Hawks rifled 14 at Mick.
Brainerd picked up the pace in the third as Cole Smith fed Nate DeChaine, but his shot was stopped by Adam Smith. Cole Smith got off another shot that momentarily handcuffed Adam Smith before he swatted it away.
Mick made a huge pad save on a Hermantown power play before Parker Hawk completed the scoring, pouncing on a Warrior turnover and beating Mick with a high shot over the right shoulder.
Hermantown 1 1 1 — 3
Brainerd 0 1 0 — 1
First period: H-Ryan Kero (Nate Pionk, Ryan Carlson) 8:37
Second period: H-Eric Gotz (Pionk, Kero) ppg 9:03; Brd-Chris Pohlkamp (Alex Mimmack, Logan Rivard) ppg 13:31
Third period: H-Parker Hawk 8:21
Shots on goal: Brd 8-8-10—26, H 9-14-12—35
Goalies: Brd-Brady Mick (32 saves); H-Adam Smith (25 saves).