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No. 1 Hermantown shakes off slow start to smash LDC

ST. PAUL -- Cole Koepke doesn't seem to be a patient man. The Hermantown senior forward waited all of 31 seconds to score the first of his three goals to lead the top-seeded Hawks to an 11-3 win over unseeded Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato in the Class...

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Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato’s Killian Keaveny takes the puck down the ice as Hermantown’s Brendan Baker, right, gives chase in the first period Wednesday in a Class A quarterfinal game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Photo by John Molene - Forum News Service)

ST. PAUL - Cole Koepke doesn’t seem to be a patient man.

The Hermantown senior forward waited all of 31 seconds to score the first of his three goals to lead the top-seeded Hawks to an 11-3 win over unseeded Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato in the Class A quarterfinals of the boys state hockey tournament Wednesday night at the Xcel Energy Center.

Three of his four scores came directly after center-ice faceoffs.

“We just try to win the draw, get it in, get it deep and get a forecheck going,” Koepke said. “(The goals) just happen as we’re working hard.”

Koepke’s second goal came in the second period, just 26 seconds after LDC senior David Raisanen scored his second goal of the game. And Koepke’s third score came late in the second - 16 seconds after another Hermantown score.

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Those scores sandwiched a three-goal Hermantown surge over a span of 1 minute, 47 seconds that helped the Hawks build their lead from a tenuous 3-2 edge to 6-2 over the Dragons (20-9) heading into the third period.

Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said the response was not unusual for his team.

“We’ve done it all year,” Plante said. “All of a sudden boom, boom, boom we’ll get two or three goals and we’ll separate ourselves from them, so that’s been really special for us. … They get just extra determined when we give up a goal. They’re so competitive.”

Hermantown (26-1-1) reached the six-goal requirement for running time early in the third period.

“For about five or six minutes there … we were going after them,” Dragons coach Chris Olson said. “We dodged grenades for quite awhile.”

Olson said Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato’s second goal to bring the game within one might have brought the giant that is Hermantown to life.

“It did probably wake them up a bit,” Olson said. “But I love our effort. We threw everything we had at them, and our effort was as good as we’ve had all year long.”

The win moved the Hawks into Friday’s state semifinals for the seventh straight year. The 11-goal outburst was only Hermantown’s second-highest mark of the season - one short of the 12 goals it scored in its Section 7 quarterfinal game against Eveleth-Gilbert.

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Hermantown’s second-round opponent is guaranteed to be a private school, as the Hawks will play the winner of the quarterfinal between St. Cloud Cathedral and St. Paul Academy. Plante has previously expressed his dismay for private schools playing in Class A, but he didn’t dive into those depths Wednesday night.

“Not for you guys, anyway,” Plante said. “I’m not sucking into that this time. Everybody knows how I feel.”

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