Staring at a three-goal deficit and what seemed to be the strong likelihood of sitting out the Class 1A state championship for the first time in eight years, Hermantown's players were unfazed.
A bit shell-shocked? Perhaps. But the Hawks insist they remained supremely confident.
"We just looked at each other and were like, 'Let's just go get it. Let's go back to work,' " senior forward Ryan Sandelin said Friday after Hermantown rallied for a 6-5 overtime victory over St. Cloud Cathedral in a semifinal matchup at Xcel Energy Center.
The No. 5-seeded Crusaders, who led 2-0 just 4:12 into the opening period, surged to a 5-2 lead in the second after scoring three goals in 74 seconds.
Your move, Hawks.
Hermantown, the tournament's defending champion, top seed and state's No. 1-ranked team in Class 1A for most of the season, scored the next four goals, three of them from Sandelin — including the game-winner.
"You could feel them coming pretty hard," St. Cloud Cathedral coach Derrick Brown said. "We have seen [all the state's top teams], and they have that gear that we have not seen in anybody else."
The overtime victory was the second in as many games for Hermantown (28-1-1), which slipped past Luverne 3-2 in Wednesday's quarterfinals. Hermantown has won 20 consecutive quarterfinal and semifinal games at the state tournament beginning in 2007.
Stoppages in play were used as mini pep rallies, with players exchanging encouragement.
"We had trust in each other," Hermantown senior defenseman Dylan Samberg said. "We huddled after some of the TV timeouts, and that kind of brought us together."
Close games were scarce for the Hawks at last year's tournament. Hermantown won its three games by a combined score of 23-4, including a 5-0 title-game rout of Breck. Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said despite trailing the Crusaders by three on Friday, the play on the ice and the mood on the bench gave him confidence a comeback was possible.
"We weren't nervous, we weren't panicky," said Plante, in his 28th season guiding the Hawks. "We were a little tired, but otherwise I knew the guys were going to respond."