Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hermantown 4 Duluth Marshall 1

They didn’t need a third straight third period comeback, but that didn’t make capturing a first ever state title, and putting the finishing touches on an undefeated season any easier for top ranked Hermantown High School(29-0-2). The Hawks defeated the second seeded Marshall School of Duluth(24-5-2) 4-1 in the championship, backed by 32 saves from senior goaltender Nathan Hardy.

The two teams met earlier this season, in a game that ended in a 1-1 tie, and the championship game picked up where the last game left off, with both teams being tied at one after the first period. Hermantown started off the scoring at 3:40 of the period, when a collision behind the net caused the puck to bounce in front of the net, where Hermantown’s Brett Granmo put it in the net. Marshall responded 33 seconds later when Bob Gutsch took the puck off a face-off and fired a high shot that was gloved by Hardy. Hardy was unable to keep the puck in his glove, however, and Jack Connolly was able to knock the puck into the net. That would be Hardy’s only error of the day, as he proved unbeatable for the rest of the game.

The turning point of the game occurred just after the 10 minute mark of the game, on a Hermantown powerplay when Connolly and Gutsch came down on Hardy on a 2-on-1. Connolly made a pass across the net to Gutsch, but Hardy slid across the crease to make the pad save. Hermantown’s Justin Baker pick up the rebound and skated down the ice, where he made a drop pass to defenseman Kyle Lonetto, who fired a shot into the upper corner of the net. Even Hardy was surprised by his game-changing save.

“I was ready for the shot, he got the pass the across, and I was kind of surprised that I got it,” said Hardy.

Hermantown added to their lead seconds before the second intermission, when Tommy Engseth took a shot from the goal line that deflected off the Marshall goalie and into the back of the net. Hermantown would keep that lead throughout the third period, despite Marshall firing 10 more shots on Hardy. The Hawks iced the game when Ryan Schmidt pick up a loose back with 30 seconds left and scored an empty-net goal, setting off a celebration among the team, and their fans.

For Marshall, it was the second consecutive season that they lost in the Class A championship game.

“I told our kids that there are 140 teams that don’t even get a sniff at the state tournament,” said Marshall head coach Brendan Flaherty. “I’m really proud of our kids.”

The Hilltoppers could not find an answer to Hardy, however.

“He’s the most under-rated goalies in the state of Minnesota,” said Hermantown’s Joe Krause.

The title is Hermantown’s first in 7 appearances at the state tournament. The team will have an official coming home celebration on Monday, but parties in the small town will start tonight.

“[It’s going to be] nuts. We’re going to be going crazy,” said Krause.