Scouting the Cardinals: Facing longtime Class 1A behemoth Hermantown presents a familiar against-all-odds scenario for first-year Luverne coach Phil Paquette. Last season Paquette, a Luverne native, was an assistant coach on the Cardinals’ girls’ hockey team that drew Class 1A powerhouse Blake in the state quarterfinals (an eventual 10-0 Luverne loss). “Yeah, it’s pretty similar,” Paquette said. “But we are going to go up there and bring them our best.” Luverne re-worked its longtime high-scoring, run-and-gun identity by posting 12 shutouts this season, seven from senior goaltender Kaden Ericson (1.44 goals-against average, .934 save percentage). Speedy junior forward Kasyn Kruse has team highs of 33 goals and 60 points.
Scouting the Hawks: Hermantown has appeared in the past seven state title games and last season broke a six-year championship game losing streak by defeating Breck 5-0. High-end talent is abundant, led by Mr. Hockey finalists Ryan Sandelin (31 goals, 40 assists), a forward who has committed to play at Minnesota State, and Dylan Samberg (10 goals, 20 assists), a 6-foot-3 defenseman committed to Minnesota-Duluth. Cade McEwen, the state’s leader in victories (26) and save percentage (.940), is one of two finalists for the Brimsek Award that goes to the state’s top senior goaltender. “We’re similar to all the other teams that we have had, other than it could be the best one,” said Bruce Plante, in his 28th season guiding the Hawks.
Worth knowing: Hermantown suffered its only loss this season to Class 2A tournament entrant Wayzata. The Hawks have won 31 consecutive games against Class 1A competition.