Mark this down in pen: top-seeded Hermantown will face No. 2 seed St. Cloud Cathedral in the 2019 Minnesota Class 1A high school boys hockey tournament championship game.
Class 1A/No. 1-ranked Hermantown figures to roll through the Section 7A tournament, with Greenway, Duluth Denfeld and Eveleth-Gilbert pretenders. The defending 7A champion Hawks defeated Greenway 4-0 and Duluth Denfeld 9-1, and visits Eveleth-Gilbert on February 8.
The Hawks defeated St. Cloud Cathedral 2-1 in overtime in a likely state tourney preview back on January 4th at MAC Arena in St. Cloud, Minn.
Hermantown (14-3-1) visits 1A/No. 6 Mahtomedi (14-3-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The Hawks are led by ultra-elite junior forward Blake Biondi, a Bulldogs recruit who leads all Northland scorers will 24 goals and 41 points (tied for 12th statewide in goals and 26th in points).
Muscleman linemate Joey Pierce, an elite sophomore and uncommitted Division I prospect, has 15 goals and 32 points, which ranks second on the team in both categories.
The third member of the Hawks’ elite line is senior Justin Thomas, who has 11 goals and 24 points.
Senior defenseman Darian Gotz, another Bulldogs recruit, has three goals and 15 points.
Senior goaltender Cole Manahan is 13-3-1, and boasts impressive 1.76 goals-against and .920 saves percentage stats.
The Hawks roll three strong forward lines and mostly rotate six defensemen.
Seniors Elliott Peterson (3 goals, 16 points) and Brady Baker (8, 12) are elite power-forwards. Also leading the forward group are junior Drew Sams (5, 13) and Popeye-strong sophomore Ethan Lund (8,16).
Senior defenseman Sam High is averaging a point per game, with six goals, and junior defenseman Indio Dowd has 11 assists.
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Cloquet (11-9) is peaking with five games remaining in the regular season. The Lumberjacks have won five straight and seven of its last eight, and will finish against Forest Lake, Duluth East, Proctor, Grand Rapids and Hermantown.
Senior forwards Landon Langenbrunner, Gavin Rasmussen and Kade Bender have combined for 36 goals and 76 points. Sophomore forward Christian Galatz has exploded for 14 goals and 25 points, second-highest on the team in both categories.
Mason Langenbrunner (2, 12) has emerged as one of the state’s elite sophomore defensemen.
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Defending Section 7AA champion Duluth East (12-6-2) has lost three of its last five. The Greyhounds are scoring only 3.25 goals per game, while allowing 2.25. Seniors Ricky Lyle and Ryder Donovan have combined for 30 goals and 51 points, and junior forward Logan Anderson has 25 points. Senior goaltender Brody Rabod has six wins (2.06 goals-against, .907 saves percentage).
The Greyhounds have regular season games remaining at Elk River-Zimmerman, Cloquet and Lakeville South, and at home against Superior and Maple Grove.
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Duluth Denfeld (9-6-3) has lost five of its last six, and finishes the regular season with six of seven winnable games. The Hunters will play host to Eveleth and Hibbing, and travel to Pine City Area, North Shore, Holy Family, Eveleth and Duluth Marshall. Only the Holy Family game appears unwinnable.
Forwards Payton Budisalovich (14, 30) and Zach DeCaro (9, 21) are enjoying strong senior seasons. Junior forward Griffin Lehet has a team-high 18 goals, including six on the power-play, and junior Shawn Easty (2.89 goals-against, .899 saves percentage) has emerged as one of the Northland’s elite goaltenders.
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CBS 3 High School Top-10 Boys Hockey Rankings
3. Duluth East
5. Duluth Denfeld
6. Grand Rapids
9. Duluth Marshall
10. International Falls
This article was written by and contributed to CBS 3 Duluth by Howie Hanson. Hanson is contributing content during this high school hockey season. Look for his articles every Thursday evening as part of CBS 3 Duluth’s weekly Thursday Night Face-off segment, airing during the last half of the 10 p.m. newscast. Hanson’s personal views do not reflect those of CBS 3 Duluth.