Amsoil Arena hosts pair of pivotal puck showdownsHIGH SCHOOL BOYS HOCKEY: Duluth East and Hermantown, ranked first in their respective classes and state tournament finalists a year ago, will be skating tonight — in separate games — at the year-old facility.
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune
Earlier this year, News Tribune columnist Rick Lubbers suggested that the Duluth East and Hermantown high school boys hockey teams schedule a game against each other at Amsoil Arena.
Well, the Greyhounds and Hawks, ranked first in their respective classes and state tournament finalists a year ago, both will be skating tonight at the year-old facility.
Not against each other, however.
Lake Superior Conference champion Hermantown faces Duluth Denfeld at 6 p.m., followed by this season’s second meeting between East and Cloquet-Esko-Carlton in the first boys doubleheader at Amsoil.
“I remember the old days at the DECC, those doubleheaders with good teams,” Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said. “I think it should be a really fun night.”
The Hawks (21-0) wrapped up an outright conference title with a 2-1 win at CEC on Thursday and now have their sights on a second undefeated season in the past six years. That stretch includes a 5-2 win over Denfeld on Dec. 22.
“The kids are trying to get that undefeated season; they are into that now,” Plante said. “It’s gotten so late into the season that now they want to try and do it. And everybody wants to see us lose — probably across the whole state — because they pull for the underdog.”
For Hawks senior forward Jared Thomas, a chance at an unbeaten record isn’t the only thing on his mind tonight. Thomas recently made an oral commitment to attend Minnesota Duluth, which plays its home games at Amsoil.
“It’s going to be the first time I’ve skated in that rink,” he said. “I’ve been there plenty of times watching UMD games, but it’s hopefully a preview of what’s to come. Hopefully, we can get a win to keep our streak going. We want to go into the playoffs on a roll.”
The Hunters (9-10-2 overall, 2-4 LSC) are 1-5-1 in their last seven games and have lost five straight to Hermantown since ending the Hawks’ 32-game unbeaten streak 1-0 early in the 2007-08 season.
East (19-1) beat CEC 7-0 in December, a game Dave Esse says is the worst he remembers his team playing since he took over as coach. Now the Lumberjacks (16-7) must play their second No. 1 team in five days.
“East is just as good as Hermantown, if not better,” Esse said. “I’d like to know their weaknesses if they have any. I’d take their fourth, fifth and sixth line any day of the week.”
Still, East senior forward Dom Toninato believes his team must be prepared for a better game from its main area rival.
“They definitely are going to be gunning for us and come out with their ‘A’ game,” said Toninato, who also has committed to UMD.
Toninato says he recalls the yearly East-CEC matchups at the DECC, which routinely drew nearly 5,000 fans. The teams last played there in December 2008.
“Those were always great games,” Toninato said. “I remember going to a bunch of those as a little kid, and the place would be packed and the fans would be crazy.”