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Boys High School Hockey Preview: Despite losses, Hermantown should be ‘good, it’s just a matter of when’

The reigning state champions lost arguably the most talent of anyone in the state, but they also have plenty of returning talent to make their way to their 13th Class A state tournament in 14 years.

Hermantown hockey captains, from left, Wyatt Carlson, George Peterson and Kade Kohanski pose for a photograph before taking the ice for captains practice
Hermantown hockey captains, from left, Wyatt Carlson, George Peterson and Kade Kohanski pose for a photograph before taking the ice for captains practice at the Hermantown Arena on Nov. 7.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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HERMANTOWN — When Hermantown smashed its way through the state tournament last year, the scoresheets were littered with familiar names: Zam Plante, Ty Hanson, Max Plante and Beau Janzig, to name a few.

This season, the Hawks' top line will look very different after each of those four players left the program, representing more than 200 points of offensive production coach Pat Andrews will have to figure out how to replace.

If you add in the departure of second-line forwards Dominic Thomas and Gavin Blomdahl, the number swells to well more than half the total points Hermantown scored in 2021-22. Zam Plante and Hanson are spending the season in the United States Hockey League and Max Plante — Hermantown’s point leader with 72 — left for USA Hockey’s National Development Team Program.

Hermantown blanks Greenway to advance to Section 7A championship game
Zam Plante (27) skates with the puck against Tae’von Wells (10) of Greenway on Friday, Feb. 25 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Plante is one of four players not returning to the Hawks' top line after Hermantown's run to the state championship last season.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Janzig, Thomas and Blomdahl all graduated and Janzig is spending this season with the North American Hockey League’s Minnesota Wilderness in Cloquet.

“Obviously, everyone looks at what you lost, you lose X amount of points, X amount of ice time,” Andrews said. “You lose three-fifths of your power play, you lose 85% of your scoring, and that’s part of it, but what you’re really losing there is they’re just tremendous human beings. Beau was an unbelievable captain for us and, obviously, Zam, Ty and Max are phenomenal players, but they’re great human beings that compete so hard and they bring that level up. That’s what you’re losing and you don’t replace that.”

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Hermantown and Grand Rapids are the class of the area — again — and Duluth East hopes to claw its way back to the top of Section 7AA.

Certainly you don’t replace a group of six players that include three Minnesota Duluth recruits — one of whom was a fifth round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins — but this is Hermantown.

The cupboard is not bare.

Much like college football titans Georgia and Ohio State, Hermantown’s rebuild more closely resembles a reload.

Hermantown hockey captains George Peterson, top left, Kade Kohanski, bottom left, and  Wyatt Carlson pause for a photo before taking the ice
Hermantown hockey captains George Peterson, top left, Kade Kohanski, bottom left, and Wyatt Carlson pause for a photo before taking the ice during captains practice at the Hermantown Hockey Arena on Nov. 7.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The Hawks season will depend on their senior captains: Kade Kohanski, Wyatt Carlson and George Peterson. In addition, Dallas Vieau, a junior Penn State recruit , will be part of the Hawks attack as well.

Kohanski is the only player from the top line to return, but he was a significant contributor last season. His 22 goals trailed only Zam Plante and his 62 total points was good enough for third on the team.

“He was not a third wheel on that line — Kade Kohanski made that line go,” Andrews said. “I think what people will see if how darn good Kade is in his own right, because he is going to make that top line go this year.”

Members of the Hermantown hockey team wait for the start of captains practice under some of the championship banners that hang from the rafters at the Hermantown Hockey Arena
Members of the Hermantown hockey team wait for the start of captains' practice under some of the championship banners that hang from the rafters at the Hermantown Hockey Arena on Nov. 7.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Carlson spent nearly a month last season on the top line when Zam Plante was sidelined with a shoulder injury. He made the most of the opportunities he had last season with 18 goals and 12 assists.

He knows it will be a challenge without Janzig, Hanson or Zam Plante, but those players faced a similar task last season.

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“Obviously, we lost a bunch of top end guys, but we’re going to have new guys coming in that have to fill roles,” Carlson said. “A bunch of the new people that are coming in this year, they’re going to have to step up a lot. It was the same with the returners last year, they had to step into roles they hadn’t come through yet and overcome all the adversity we had.”

While Andrews was unable to work with the team until Nov. 14 because of state rules, Kohanski, Carlson and Peterson were running captains’ practices to help get everyone ready for the new season.

Hermantown hockey captain George Peterson laughs as he talks to his team before explaining a drill during captains practice
Hermantown hockey captain George Peterson laughs as he talks to his team before explaining a drill during captains practice at the Hermantown Hockey Arena on Monday, Nov. 7.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“At these captains’ practices, we’re just trying to pick up the tempo and try to get to game speed,” Peterson said. “We want to create that chemistry because we’ve got a lot a question marks and a lot of new players that are going to be stepping up to play big roles.”

Andrews knows the team will be very different from last season and Hermantown has talent, but will take time for the team to round into shape.

“I think we’ll be incredibly strong defensively and not give much up and then be opportunistic offensively and find our way as we go,” Andrews said. “Hopefully by Christmas we know what we have. It’s a little different team — I think we’re going to be good, it’s just a matter of when.”

Members of the Hermantown Hawks hockey team wait along the boards of the Hermantown Hockey Arena during captains practice
Members of the Hermantown Hawks hockey team wait along the boards of the Hermantown Hockey Arena during captains practice Monday, Nov. 7.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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