In a battle between Class A’s top-ranked teams Wednesday in Duluth, No. 2 Hermantown, the defending state champion, showed No. 1 Delano that it is still the team to beat
DULUTH — The fans at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth Wednesday night got what they wanted when the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked teams in Class A met in the semifinals of the Hilltopper Holiday Classic — a great game.
Delano entered as the No. 1 team and Hermantown came in ranked No. 2, and, as was made apparent by four lead changes, both teams belonged in those top two spots.
The order of the Tigers and Hawks in those two spots changed, however, as, that fourth lead was taken by Hermantown, the defending state champion, which scored two goals in the final five minutes of regulation to claim a 4-3 victory over Delano.
The result moved both teams’ records to 7-1-1 entering Thursday’s final day of the tournament.
Delano improved to 8-1-1 with a 6-5 overtime win over Roseville in the third-place game.
Hermantown met Duluth Marshall for the tournament championship. The result of that game was not known at the early press deadline Thursday.
Delano’s penalty kill has struggled a bit, and that was the case Wednesday night, as Hermantown scored two goals on three power-play chances.
Hermantown’s Ryan Sandelin slips the puck past Delano goaltender Erik Peterson to score the Hawks’ first goal Wednesday evening in at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth during a semifinal game of the Hilltopper Holiday Classic. Sandelin burned the Delano for three points and led the No. 2 Hawks to a 4-3 win over the previously-ranked No. 1 Tigers.
Photo by Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune
Tyler Watkins tied the game 3-3 with the second of those power-play goals for the Hawks, at 12:49 of the third period, with Delano’s best player, Ben Meyers, in the penalty box serving a tripping minor.
Less than three minutes later, Watkins found the back of the net again, this time with an even-strength goal, giving Hermantown the 4-3 lead with 1:55 remaining in regulation.
Earlier in the third period, Meyers gave Delano its second lead of the game, scoring on a power play at 4:38, to give the Tigers a 3-2 edge.
The goal was Meyers’ only point of the game, which is significant considering the senior had scored no less than four points in each of Delano’s previous eight games.
The goal was Meyers’ state-leading 19th goal of the season. He also led the state in assists (24) and points (43) heading into the third-place game against Roseville. (Statistics from the third-place game were not available.)
Meyers became Delano’s career points leader Dec. 22 in a 9-1 win at Mound-Westonka. His four points in Tuesday’s win over Cloquet and his goal against Hermantown upped Meyers’ career points total to 201 through Wednesday.
Meyers’ 90 career goals is 20 less than Tyler Heinonen’s 110 with 15 regular-season games remaining. His 111 assists is already the record.
Meyers’ Legion of Zoom line mates, Brian Halonen and John Keranen, both finished with two points against Hermantown.
Keranen and Kyle Ylitalo had the two assists on the Meyers goal.
Keranen and Gabe Halonen set up Brian Halonen’s second-period goal, which tied the game, 2-2, at 12:55.
Ylitalo helped the Tiger take the initial 1-0 lead at 7:35 of the first period, setting up Gabe Halonen for the goal.
The early advantage did not hold up, though, as the Hawks answered with two goals, the second coming on a power play with seven seconds remaining in the period, to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Logan Judnick scored the power-play goal for Hermantown. Eight minutes earlier, Hermantown’s Ryan Sandelin scored to tie the game 1-1.
Sandelin, who is a Minnesota State Mankato commit and the son of UM-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin, finished with three points in the game. He had the primary assist on the two Watkins goals in the third period.
Dylan Samberg, who is committed to UM-Duluth, had a pair of assists, helping on the Sandelin goal and the Watkins power-play goal.
For the second game in as many days at the tournament, a Delano goaltender was busy.
Senior Erik Peterson made 37 saves on 41 Hermantown shots. That effort came on the heels of a 46-save performance by junior Jackson Hjelle Tuesday afternoon in Delano’s 7-6 double-overtime win over Cloquet-Esko-Carlton in the quarterfinals.
The Hermantown attack and stingy defense kept Delano away from goalie Cade McEwen and in its own defensive end for most of the game, limiting the Tigers to 15 shots.
McEwen made 12 saves.
It’s early to begin seriously discussions about the postseason, but members of the Hermantown team would love another game against Delano.
“I would like to, after a fun game like that,” Samberg told the Duluth News Tribune of meeting Delano at state.
“Really good team. Really good team. I hope they get to the state tournament,” Hermantown coach Bruce Plante told the newspaper. “They deserve it.”
16TH ANNUAL HILLTOPPER CLASSIC
Hermantown 4, Delano 3
Wednesday, Dec. 28
Mars Lakeview Arena – Duluth
1 2 3 - F
Hermantown 2 0 2 - 4
Delano 1 1 1 - 3
1. D — G. Halonen (Ylitalo), 7:35; 2. H — Sandelin (Samberg), 8:09; 3. H — Judnick (Peterson, Gotz), pp, 16:53.
4. D — B Halonen (G Halonen, Keranen), 12:55.
5. D — Meyers (Keranen, Ylitalo), pp, 4:38; 6. H — Watkins (Sandelin, Samberg), pp, 12:49; 7. H — Watkins 2 (Sandelin), 15:02.
Shots on goal
Delano 15; Hermantown 41
Delano: Peterson 37
Hermantown: McEwen 12.