A near perfect season came to a perfect end as Hermantown (29-0-1) rolled the Hilltoppers from Duluth Marshall 4-1 in the Class A final Saturday afternoon.
In what was a game that was greatly controlled by Duluth Marshall’s offense for the first 25 minutes, it took 17 second period seconds with the score tied at one to swing momentum in favor of the Hawks.
After a slashing penalty on Marshall’s Scott Michela, Marshall won the face off and quickly went on a short-handed rush. It took a nifty pipe to pipe slide by Hermantown goalie Nathan Hardy, one of his 32 saves, to keep Duluth from taking the lead.
As Hardy’s save was collected, Hermantown quickly countered with its own attack. Justin Baker carried the puck into the zone down the left side and slid the puck back between the circles to Kyle Lonetto. Lonetto shelfed a wrist shot on Marshall goalie Jesse Behning, and the Hawks would never look back.
The lead grew five minutes later when Tommy Engseth beat Behning five-hole as Engseth skated out from behind the net.
A late empty net goal by Ryan Schmidt just sweetened the deal for Hermantown, and the celebration began.
The two schools, who sit just seven miles apart, are no strangers to each other or state tournament play. Last year, the Hawks finished in third behind, ironically, Duluth Marshall, who finished second. It was also Marshall who put the only hiccup on Hermantown’s record, a 1-1 tie earlier in the season.
The championship for Hermantown marks its first in school history. After the game, many players could be heard talking about how this just wasn’t a win for them, but the entire town of Hermantown … the town that taught them hockey, the town that always cheered for them, the town that watched them grow.
Some could say that this season was the perfect way for the Hawks to say thanks.