HERMANTOWN (WCCO) — If you set out in search of downtown Hermantown, you’ll likely keep looking quite a while. It’s more of a sprawl than a city.

What unifies the town is the hockey team.

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“Hockey to Hermantown is like football to any kid in Texas,” captain Nate Pionk said. “It’s the biggest thing.”

So it’s easy to understand how the Hawks have made the last five state title games. How they’ve lost all of them is hard to explain.

“It’s almost laughable now,” coach Bruce Plante said. “I mean, it’s like, who the hell ever does this? I mean, nobody’s ever done this. It’s almost like, I don’t even know what to even say about it. It’s just the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen.”

Nobody knows heartbreak like Hermantown, the annual bridesmaid of the Class A tournament. They’re the Buffalo Bills in the ’90s.

But better.

“It’s just heartbreaking, like any team would be, whether it’s the first time,” Plante said, then breaking into a chuckle. “Or the fifth time.”

So is the sixth time the charm for hard-luck Hermantown?

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“The past is the past,” Plante said. “And they’re very motivated to change it.”

And now as Hermantown gets ready to try – yet again – for a title, they say they’re not changing anything about their approach. After all, it’s been almost good enough for a while now.

“We’re going there with a purpose,” Plante said. “And we want to try and accomplish something.”

Something that’s always been just out of their grasp. But could this team be the one to finally break through?

“We’ve been really good all year,” Plante said. “We’ve been very consistent in how we play. We have skill all the way through our lineup.

“This team certainly is capable of winning the state championship.”

Then, Plante can’t help but laugh again, as he finishes his answer.

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“We could get beat in the first game too. Who knows. Everybody’s good down there.”