As Edina's Tyler Nanne was scoring twice in the Class 2A hockey state quarterfinals Thursday night without ever actually shooting at the goal, Hermantown coach Bruce Plante was having a conversation with the hockey gods.
"That's what we need, one of these games," Plante said about Nanne's stunning puck luck and, not coincidentally, Edina's runaway 6-1 victory over Stillwater.
Hermantown on Friday beat New Prague 4-2 to become just the third program to advance to a fifth consecutive title game. The Hawks have lost in the past four Class 1A championship games in excruciating fashion.
In 2010 against Breck, the winning goal deflected off a Hawks' players shin pad and into the goal. In 2011 in the first of three consecutive title-game losses to St. Thomas Academy, the Cadets' won in overtime on a point shot that, amazingly, sailed through a traffic jam of players in front. There was also the 5-1 blowout loss in 2012.
Last year the Hawks blew a 4-2 third-period lead, had a penalty called on them in the final 67 seconds and a controversial no-call in favor the Cadets' a few seconds later, just before Tommy Novak scored to nearly send Plante through the roof. He did go on the ice to berate the officials.
"My AD actually came up to me and said, before I went in there, 'Now watch yourself, all the big hitters are in there,' " the candid Plante said about a postgame conference room overflowing with media members and high school league officials. "I tried to tone it down."
That loss still stings for Plante, as do the four consecutive title-game defeats going into Saturday's championship game with top-seeded and No. 1-ranked East Grand Forks. "But it is such a compliment to our team and our program and our kids to be second place, too," he said.
With St. Thomas Academy having opted up to Class 2A, Hermantown — title game warts and all — is the new Class 1A standard bearer.
"That's exactly the bar," New Prague coach Chris Lonke said. "That's why we ask them to be on our schedule."