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Howie: Hawks boys ready to tee it up for skate to state, Black Woods Blizzard Tour underway

Hermantown’s top-ranked Class A high school boys hockey team has three games remaining in it’s 2017-18 regular season schedule: home games against Eveleth-Gilbert on Friday and Bemidji Saturday, and a final road game at unranked/2A Grand Rapids a week from tonight.

The Hawks (14-6-2) figure to win all three games and carry a five-game winning streak into the Section 7A playoffs, which begin Feb. 17.

As the No. 1 seed in 7A — and likely for the state 1A tourney — here’s the Road to State itinerary for two-time defending Minnesota Class A champion Hermantown:

Section 7A

Quarterfinal — Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. (Hawks’ home game against No. 8-9 play-in game winner)

Semifinal — Friday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. Amsoil Arena

Championship – Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. Amsoil Arena

State Class A

Quarterfinal – Wednesday, Mar. 7 at 6 p.m. Xcel Energy Center

Semifinal – Friday, Mar. 9 at 2 p.m., Xcel Energy Center

Championship – Saturday, Mar. 10 at noon, Xcel Energy Center

Plowing deeper:

7A Tourney

While Hermantown is the strong favorite, Virginia and Greenway, in particular, figure be top contenders. Hermantown defeated both teams in their home barns in the regular season, clipping Greenway 4-2 on Jan. 16 and Virginia 2-1 on Jan. 30.

State Tourney

No. 2 Mahtomedi, No. 3 Orono, No. 4 Mound Westonka and No. 6 St. Cloud Cathedral are likely state tourney teams. The host Hawks defeated Mahtomedi 4-1 last Saturday and St. Cloud Cathedral 4-3 on Jan. 5.

TAKE A BOW: Blizzard Tour sprinting to $10 million raised for ALS

The 19th Black Woods Blizzard Tour, a snowmobile fundraiser to help in the fight against Lou Gehrig’s Disease, officially got underway with a pre-race social and dinner event Wednesday night at Black Woods Grill & Bar in Proctor.

The snowmobiling portion of the event begins today, when over 220 riders will trek from Proctor to Fortune Bay. The group travels to Two Harbors on Friday and back to Duluth Saturday for a final public celebration dinner expected to draw nearly 400 riders and event supporters at Cirrus Aircraft.

The event has raised over $8.8 million overall, and this year’s fundraising goal is $1 million.

“Being a sponsor of the ALS event has been one of the most memorable events in my life,” said Bryan Flaherty, owner of the Black Woods Group, the event’s title sponsor which owns and operates popular Black Woods Grill & Bars in Duluth, Proctor and Two Harbors and Tavern on the Hill near the University of Minnesota Duluth.

“We say, ‘Never surrender,’” Flaherty said. “The ultimate party would be to celebrate a cure for ALS.”

The event raised $46,000 in its first year, Flaherty recalled, and grew to $1.1 million in 2017.

“Selfless individuals such as David Kolquist, the glue who has held the event together throughout the years, and celebrity participants Terry Steinbach, Kent Hrbek and Ron Gardenhire (former Twins’ field manager and current field manager of the Detroit Tigers), among others, and our many citizen participants have helped pave the way,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty has battled his own health issues in recent years, including a double lung transplant over two years.

“I’ve always said, before the transplant, that I’m the lucky one because I could have ALS,” said Flaherty, who won’t be attending this weekend’s events because he’s in the Twin Cities having minor surgery today.