Sophomore Jesse Jacques' second-period goal was deemed so important that his Hermantown teammates selected him as their player of the game.
But it was junior Cole Koepke's goal early in the third period of the Hawks' 2-0 victory over St. Cloud Apollo in the Class 1A state semifinals that Hermantown coach Bruce Plante appreciated most.
"That really gets rid of some of the ulcer juices right there when you get that second one," Plante said after piloting the No. 1-seeded Hawks to a sixth consecutive title game appearance. "The second goal is a coach-loving goal, I'll tell you that."
St. Cloud Apollo's suffocating defensive style effectively bottled up the Hawks' fast-paced and precision offense. State runner-up the past five seasons, Hermantown (27-2-1) earned a championship-game rematch with No. 3 seed East Grand Forks despite scoring fewer than three goals for just the second time this season. The Hawks had scored an average of seven goals in their previous four playoff games.
"You just go out there and you play how you've got to play," Hermantown senior Nate Pionk said about adapting to No. 5 seed St. Cloud Apollo's ice-clogging defensive system. "It doesn't really matter how you win games."
Jacques' slap shot from the top of the right circle opened the scoring 6:44 into the second and earned him the pink Minnie Mouse bicycle helmet that goes with being selected the Hawks' player of the game.
"Jacquo getting that first one in was huge for us," Pionk said. "So we decided to give [the helmet] to him."
Jacques, who has 10 goals this season, had the ridiculously small helmet strapped atop his head for the postgame media session.
"First time I've worn it," Jacques said. "It feels pretty good."
East Grand Forks defeated Hermantown 7-3 in last year's title game.
"It's a brand new year," Pionk said about the rematch. "What's happened in the past is the past."