February 19, 2013
Hunters seek first state tourney berth
By Rick Weegman
Levi Talarico has been checking items off his
to-do list now that his five-year career on the Duluth Denfeld varsity
hockey team is nearly over.
Beat three-time defending Class A runners-up Hermantown.
Beat Duluth East for the first time in 18 seasons.
Score more than 25 goals and 60 points in a season.
Win the Section 7A title and earn the high school’s
first state tournament berth since 1989.
That last item is all that remains to check off
on the top-line right winger’s list.
“It would mean absolutely everything to
me,” Talarico said. “It would be a memory that I’ll
never forget, especially with the buddies that I have on the team.
It would be an awesome close to a career by beating East, Hermantown
and finishing it out at the state tournament.”
Top-seeded Denfeld (17-8) begins its quest Thursday
against the winner of
tonight’s matchup between Greenway and Ely. Potential matchups
against teams such as Virginia-Mountain-Buhl, International Falls,
Hibbing-Chisholm and Duluth Marshall — all teams Denfeld defeated
in the regular season.
“We’re feeling good about the playoffs,
but we definitely aren’t getting ahead of ourselves,”
Talarico said. “We’re taking it game-by-game and taking
one step at a time. We weren’t ready to play against International
Falls (a 6-4 win) and Virginia (a 5-3 win) and took the bigger games
more seriously, so we’re not going to do that this time.”
Talarico, playing on a line with center Alex Thompson
and left winger Patrick Potswald, led the Lake Superior Conference
with 61 points on 29 goals and 32 assists.
“Levi is the type of player that when he
decides that it’s his time, he’s capable of taking over,”
Denfeld coach Kevin Smalley said. “His speed is one-of-a-kind
— he can get wide-open in a couple of steps — and you
don’t realize how fast he’s going because he’s
smooth. He has that ability with his feet to make things happen.
“Every team has guys they look to in crucial
situations, and he’s one of those kinds of guys. When he’s
putting the puck in the net, the team seems to play a lot better.
And when he’s not putting the puck in the net, he’s
doing things defensively a lot better than most guys.”
Thompson, who has scored 21 goals, has been alongside
Talarico since joining the
varsity as a freshman and says he’s a better player because
“He’s had a great career,” Thompson
said. “I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am without him,
so he’s a big help. He’s fast and unselfish and just
a good overall teammate and leader.”
That hockey career could be coming to a close,
however. The 5-foot-7, 175-pound Talarico says he hasn’t had
any colleges or junior teams pursue him and he’s considering
a career with Minnesota Power rather than continuing to play competitive
“This could be it, so every game could be
my last,” he said. “It’s a bittersweet feeling
that it could be coming to an end, but I’ve been playing for
15 years and I just want to end it on a good note. And there’s
no better chance than this year.”
Second-seeded Marshall (13-12) and No. 3 Hibbing-Chisholm
(13-12) can’t be overlooked.
The Hilltoppers beat the Bluejackets in the final
last season and have represented the section five of the previous
eight years. Goalie Caden Flaherty (2.47, .924) excelled late as
Marshall allowed only five goals in their last six games and Kris
McKinzie (18 goals) provided much of the goal-scoring.Minnesota
Duluth recruit Adam Johnson (16-27—43) leads the Bluejackets,
who have played in the previous 10 section finals.