The state-ranked #2 Hermantown Hawks took the ice tonight against the state ranked #5 Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers in a battle for the Section 7A crown and a trip to the state tournament. Both teams made appearances in last year's state tournament, playing against each other in the first round.

After Hermantown's move from Section 5A to 7A during the offeason, only one of the two highly ranked teams could represent the Twin Ports area at the Xcel Energy Center next week.

Hermantown junior Nate Pionk got the scoring going two and a half minutes into the game, assisted by Scott Wasbotten and Eric Gotz. Luke Pavelich tied the game up at 1 for the Hilltoppers after finding the net at the six minute mark in the first period. After finding offensive success earlier in the period, both Nate Pionk and Scott Wasbotten netted goals in the second half of the first period to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead going into the first intermission.

Midway through the second period, Marshall sophomore Jon Hansen cut the Hermantown lead, making the score 3-2. Nate Pionk found the net again at the 12:29 mark of the second period, making for a hat trick for the Hermantown junior. Ryan Kero joined in the scoring late in the period, extending the Hawks lead to 5-2.

Both teams remained quiet offensively through the majority of the third period, however Ryan Kero scored an empty net goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock, closing the game out with a 6-2 final.

This marks the fifth straight trip to the State Class A Tournament for the Hawks, with the previous four visits ending in second place. The first of those trips resulted in a loss to Breck, while the last three championship games were all losses to St. Thomas Academy, who moved to Class AA during the offseason.

Hermantown's first opponent at the tournament next week will be determined following the conclusion of all of the section tournament games this weekend. The brackets will be announced Saturday, with the first games of the tournament slated for Wednesday, March 5 a the Xcel Energy Center.

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