Playing Hermantown can be like competing in a triathlon … that allows body checking.
Welcome to 51 Minutes of Hell.
The Hawks play a structured, fast-paced, physical style sprinkled with a heavy dose of rink rat creativity. They roll out multiple forward lines and defensive pairs with seemingly no drop-off in speed or skill, allowing them to, by the third period, wear opposing teams to the nub.
“We keep the tempo hot and try to wear teams down,” Hermantown coach Pat Andrews said Wednesday after the Hawks beat Orono 2-1 in front of a near-capacity crowd of about 600 at the Orono Ice Arena. “Lots of times teams can skate with us for a period, maybe even two, but at some point it usually breaks.”
The No. 2-1A Hawks (16-2-1) didn’t so much break the No. 4-1A Spartans (17-3-0) as they survived them. Orono, featuring a lineup loaded with 6-footers-plus who play a rugged, physical style, set the tone early with a series of board-rattling hits, then applied heavy pressure in the Hermantown end in the closing stages of the third period.
“They came out with some really hard hits … and we matched their intensity,” Hermantown defenseman George Peterson said. “So that was really fun.”
Added forward Matt Kauppinen: “That’s the most physical Class A team we’ve played, for sure.”
Hermantown has outscored its opponents by 26 goals in the third period compared to a 14-goal advantage in the first. Andrews said all four of the Hawks’ forwards lines saw action against the Spartans.
“A lot of bodies played,” he said. “I think that helped us down the stretch. Our top guys were rested a little bit.”
Kauppinen, in particular, needed all the energy he could summon. He was tasked with taking face-offs against Bradley Walker, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Spartans senior and one-time football standout who doesn’t body check players as much as he pulverizes them.
“He's super strong,” Kaupppinen said about Walker, who scored Orono’s lone goal. “I was trying to tie him up and get it back, but at least tie him up so the defensemen could get it.”
When it wasn't killing penalties, Hermantown forced turnover-after-turnover in the neutral zone, then rushed into the Orono end for scoring chance-after-scoring chance. The Hawks unloaded 19 shots on goal in the opening period and 18 more in the second, when all of the scoring occurred.
Orono senior goaltender Brock Peyton finished with 50 saves on a night in which he broke the school’s career saves mark, surpassing Dan Sorensen’s total of 1,366 set in 1979-83.
“Brock did a great job,” first-year Orono coach Sean Fish said. “I thought in the second and third period we played more of our style. We were tough to play against, kept them on the perimeter.
“It’s a learning experience for us.”
LONG LAKE - Dallas Vieau’s goal with 2:44 left in the second period held up as the winner as Hermantown hung on to beat Orono 2-1 on Wednesday in front of a near-capacity crowd of about 600 at the Orono Ice Arena.
Vieau, a junior Penn State commit, scored off a face-off win by sophomore River Freeman, who pushed the puck forward, sliced past a defender and sent a pass through the crease to his unchecked linemate.
All the scoring came in the second period. Senior Kade Kohanski opened the scoring for No. 2-1A Hermantown (16-2-1) 1:29 into the middle period. Senior Bradley Walker answered for No. 4-1A Orono (17-3-0) 96 seconds later.
Senior Brock Peyton was spectacular in goal for Orono on a milestone night. He made 50 saves to pass the Spartans’ career mark of 1,366 set by Dan Sorensen from 1979-83. Peyton finished the game with 1,381 career saves.
The Hawks survived four Spartans power-play opportunities in the final period, including one in the final 1:45. Orono had several quality scoring chances on a series of face-off wins by Walker in the waning seconds. Hermantown goaltender Dane Callaway denied one prime opportunity by poking the puck out of harm’s way an instant before the Brooks Fegers could gain control.
As time expired Walker pushed the puck forward past a Hermantown defender and managed to fire a shot while falling to the ice. Callaway got his right pad in front of the puck, then smothered Walker’s rebound try.
Hermantown was making its seventh trip to the Twin Cities area this season. The Hawks went 6-1-1 in those games — all against top-level Class 2A or 1A competition.
The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for Orono. The Spartans’ previous losses came against No. 1-1A Warroad and No. 2-2A Chanhassen.