The Hermantown boys' hockey team is the two-time defending state champion and a clear-cut favorite to win a ninth straight Section 7A title. Or so it would seem.
"The leadership on this team has been fabulous," first-year head coach Patrick Andrews said. "We had some struggles earlier in the year, but we're all on the same page now and hoping to be back in the state tournament."
That's become the expectation. It had to after the Hawks finished as the MSHSL Class A runners-up six straight seasons before finally snapping that streak and winning the past two titles.
This year's road back to the tourney, though, isn't as easy as some of the past. No. 1 Hermantown will take on Greenway in a rematch of last year's final, which the Hawks won 5-1.
"They're really good. It's going to be a heck of a game. We're really excited for it," Andrews said. "We had a battle with them up at their rink in January. They've gotten better. We've gotten better. If we're No. 1 [in the state], they have to be No. 2. They're as good as anybody we've played all year."
Hermantown won that regular season meeting 4-2, but the players aren't letting that affect the preparation for Wednesday's section final.
"They're a really tough team," senior forward Tyler Watkins said. "We just have to focus on our start, come out and play our game. We'll see how things shake out."
While Hermantown has been to eight straight state tournaments, a win Wednesday would Greenway its first trip since 2001. The Section 7A championship game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at AMSOIL Arena.