The Tourney | Scouting Lourdes' opponent: No. 1 Hermantown

Posted by: Feldman

When I thought of putting together a scouting report on Hermantown, I figured I'd better talk to someone who has seen the Hawks play quite a bit this season. That guy happens to be Rochester native Zack Friedli, a 2007 Mayo High School grad, who goes to school at UMD and covers high school hockey in the northeastern part of the state for .

Zack was kind enough to take some time to break down Hermantown's strengths. Oh, and weaknesses. Or, weakness. Whatever the case, there's not much negative to say about the No. 1-ranked Hawks, who bring a 28-0-0 record into Wednesday's Class A state quarterfinal game against No. 9-ranked Lourdes (20-8-0).

Here's what Zack had to say about Hermantown. I'll add my thoughts after each catgetory.



Zack's thoughts : Hermantown obviously has one of the best forwards in the state in  Jared Thomas, a kid who is extremely strong on the puck. The scary thing about Thomas is his ability to beat you in so many ways, though. In the 10 or so games I've seen the Hawks play this year, Thomas has scored goals by wheeling around guys to the outside, dangling through sticks and bodies, shooting from high in the zone... you name a way to score, and he's done it this year. His wingers, Chris Bensonand Andrew Mattson, complement him well. That top line is super dangerous because they are all big and all like to get to the net. That's actually how Hermantown gets most of its goals -- by getting to the net and using its size to muck it up in front. They aren't a real pretty team most of the time. Some other guys to watch -- Matt Lord, Bo Gronseth, Paul Harrold.

My thoughts : It's unfortunate that Lourdes doesn't have the last line change in this game, because the Eagles are going to want to get their No. 2 line of Connor Nellans, Ryan Nicolayand Ben Weir, out against Thomas' group as much as possible. The Eagles' defensemen have to hold their ground and avoid the temptation to join the rush. They can't give up odd-man rushes and leave goalie Jesse Neumannon an island. The big thing for the Eagles is to keep the puck out of their own zone. The d-men need to clear it and let the forwards use their speed.


Zack's thoughts : I honestly don't know if there is a deeper group of blue-liners in either A or AA -- each of the guys has something different to offer. Jared Kolquistis, in my opinion, the most important player on Hermantown's roster. He is a great skater, has incredible poise with the puck and eats minutes like Zdeno Chara. Brian LeBlancisn't as flashy, but he moves the puck effectively and knows how to keep pucks away from the dangerous areas in the defensive zone. Jake Zeleznikarprobably has the best hands of the three. Hermantown's D limits chances because they are unreal in their own end, but the thing to watch is how well they start plays by transitioning quickly -- its absolutely ridiculous how good they are at catching teams sleeping.

My thoughts : Again, Lourdes d-men have to play a solid defensive game first and let the forwards take care of the offense. Crisp line changes are a must against a team like the Hawks that can move the puck from deep in their own end through the neutral zone in a flash.


Zack's thoughts : Matt Mensingeris a guy that I would never expect to have done so well, and I even said at the start of the year that he was the biggest worry for this team. However, he's found another level lately, hasn't given up a goal since Feb. 2, and is playing with tons of confidence. He's really big -- like (former Mayo goalie) Kevin Donohuebig -- and he finds a way to make saves in big spots. Coach Plante told me after the 5A championship game that he isn't pretty in net, but he gets the job done.

My thoughts : This isn't great news for a Lourdes team that hasn't scored a goal at the Xcel Energy Center in the past three years. Still, I'll repeat what I've said before. This group of Eagles looks more relaxed and laid back than the previous three state tournament teams. It may not be as talented as those past teams, but the boys seem to be embracing the underdog role and the "we have nothing to lose" mantra. We'll see how much that helps this year.



Zack's thoughts : It's pretty simple -- Hermantown scores pretty easily on the PP, and they've only allowed like 3 more goals while on the PK than they've scored shorthanded, which is something I've never seen. Watch them on the penalty kill against Lourdes... 

My thoughts : This makes it all the more crucial that Lourdes stay out of the box and be patient on the power play. When they get a puck to the net on the power play, let the low guys battle for the rebound. The point guys need to stay put and not let the speedy Hawks penalty killers get behind them. That said, Lourdes has the same ability to turn a penalty killing situation into a short-handed goal. How many times have we seen Alex Funktake one the other way for a shorty this season? Special teams might be the most exciting part of this game to watch.


Zack's thoughts : If anything, I'd say its Hermantown's tendency to be too aggressive. Lourdes has tons of speed, and they might be able to catch the Hawks with 3 or 4 guys low and create odd-man rushes. You'll get a few chances against the Hawks, but if you don't find a way to make them pay you're not going to beat them. I think if Lourdes has any shot at winning on Wednesday, they'll need to score a couple early. I don't think the Hawks have played from behind AT ALL this year. Maybe once or twice, but not much. Putting them in that spot where they haven't been before might make the biggest difference.

My thoughts : It's sort of a role reversal for Lourdes headed into state. In the Eagles last two section tournament games, their opponents (Red Wing and Northfield) came in with a game plan to keep it close going into the third period and take their chances from there. It worked better for Red Wing (5-3 loss w/an empty-netter) than Northfield (4-1 loss), but Lourdes kind of has to take the same philosophy. That means Lourdes has to get a goal early, just as Red Wing did in the section semifinals by scoring twice in the first period. And, as Zack said, Lourdes needs to finish it's odd-man rushes. They have to create their own breaks against a team as deep as Hermantown.

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