MISSOULA — If you think you're seeing triple, think again.
For the third straight year, Missoula Hellgate and Bozeman will battle in the Class AA boys soccer championship game after the Knights and Hawks both emerged victorious from Tuesday's semifinal matches.
Hellgate defeated Kalispell Glacier 1-0 at Fort Missoula Regional Park thanks to a goal just before half from Lars Thorne-Thomsen that was assisted by Beckett Arthur.
"In the first half it was pretty 50-50, like there was a lot of frantic play from both sides," Thorne-Thomsen said. "Going into the half, just to get the little 1-2 with Beckett, to finish the half one goal up really helped us out."
He added about advancing to the championship game once again: "It just shows that we're still working hard and nothing's going to change. We're just going to go out and work as hard as we can and try and get another win."
Glacier appeared to get a goal in the 22nd minute from Hunter Lisowski, but the referee called a hand ball and the point was taken away to keep the game 0-0 until Thorne-Thomsen's conversion.
Glacier pressed Hellgate throughout the game but was unable to get a goal while Hellgate's offense was stalled by the Wolfpack's back line and keeper John Pyron. Pyron was challenged often by Hellgate's plethora of forwards who put up 17 goals in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but Pyron was right there to keep the game close for the Wolfpack.
"The character that they show, the effort that they show, the composure, the discipline, the class, I just can't say enough about these kids," Glacier coach Ryan Billiet said about his team. "They're just fantastic people and they're going to do great things, not only on the soccer field, but in our communities as well."
Hellgate keeper Loren Deskins was also sharp in his defense on Tuesday evening as he was credited with the clean sheet.
"I've known these guys since they were young. My son (Marcus) plays on the team so all of these kids are friends with him and I've seen them play since they were in Micro Strikers together," Hellgate coach Jay Anderson said about what stood out about this year's state-bound team. "It's pretty unique to see them develop over the last 10 years.
"It doesn't get old (making the title game) but it's always different. New group of guys every time so I'm glad. We're pretty lucky to be back here and these guys earned it this evening."
The state title appearance will be the seventh straight for Hellgate as the Knights look to win their fifth state championship in the past six years. Since 2011, the boys Class AA soccer title match has had either Hellgate, Bozeman or both competing in the game.
Bozeman defeated Missoula Sentinel 2-0 earlier on Tuesday afternoon. The Hawks will host the Knights on Saturday in the championship game.