Dec. 5, 2014
Duluth News Tribune
Denfeld hopes 'melting pot' is winning recipe
By Louie St. George
On paper, the Duluth Denfeld boys hockey team appears to be well-positioned for contention in Section 7A.
Games, though, aren’t played on paper, Hunters coach Kevin Smalley was quick to point out Wednesday evening.
“On paper, I don’t really know what people’s definition of talent is,” Smalley said a day after his team improved to 2-1 by beating Greenway in a chippy affair in Coleraine. “But I can tell you that this team has a little of everything.”
An already deep roster, led by Nick Thompson, Cody Budisalovich and Jake DeCaro, is supplemented by newcomers Cam McClure, who transferred from Duluth Marshall, Jonah Williams (Hermantown) and Dylan Skorich (Superior). Additionally, Dylan Michaud joins Denfeld’s varsity a year after playing junior varsity following a transfer from Cloquet-Esko-Carlton.
The challenge now is to blend all those ingredients together and hope the end result is a winning recipe. Thompson, Denfeld’s version of Wild defenseman Ryan Suter in that he rarely comes off the ice, doesn’t foresee that being a problem.
“No, not really,” Thompson said. “We skated all summer together and we started clicking right away.”
Smalley similarly said he’s not concerned about incorporating a host of new faces into his system. Change and roster turnover, he said, are part of high school hockey.
“I think at the high school level, you’ve been through enough — through pee wees and bantams — to understand what the game’s really about,” he said. “Hopefully, you can bring something into the locker room that helps the team.”
Last winter, Denfeld overcame a slow start to finish 14-11-2, beating Marshall and Grand Rapids down the stretch and tying Hermantown. The year before, the Hunters were denied a state tournament berth when McClure’s second-period goal in the section final proved to be the game-winner.
McClure (12 goals, 10 assists, 22 points as a junior) will be counted on to replace some of the scoring punch produced by Reid Lemker and Tre Opack, who combined for 34 goals a year ago before graduating. Likewise for Thompson (13-17—30), DeCaro (10-13—23) and Budisalovich (9-2—11).
“We have a lot of hard-working guys that will do a lot for this team,” Thompson said. “Instead of having one or two that do all of it, we’ll be a lot more spread out.”
Goalies Wes Cook and River Alander have alternated in net through three games and that likely will be the case again in upcoming games.
“As the season goes on, I think they’re going to work that out on their own,” Smalley said. “If not, we’ll continue to play the guys that are hot.”
Denfeld last qualified for the state tournament in 1989. The Hunters have been close to returning of late, though that task became more daunting last year as Hermantown was moved from Section 5A to Section 7A.