Feb. 23, 2007
blank Trojans in quarterfinals
By Rick Weegman
With all the talented nonseniors on its team,
Duluth Denfeld can expect to be a contender in boys hockey next
But the Hunters aren’t looking that far
ahead — they aren’t done with this season.
Denfeld began play in the Section 2A tournament
by crushing Duluth Central 9-0 in a quarterfinal game Thursday night
at the DECC. Chris Stafne scored four goals, including registering
a hat trick in a span of 2:20 in the first period, while fellow
junior Jake Johnson had a goal and four assists and sophomore Max
Skarman scored twice as the second-seeded Hunters (18-7-1) advanced
to play No. 3 St. Cloud Cathedral (20-3-3) in a semifinal Saturday
night in Blaine, Minn.
“We have so much potential with our underclassmen.
I think our future is really bright,” said Johnson, who is
95 percent certain he will come back to Denfeld next season despite
being drafted by Sioux City of the United States Hockey League.
“I hope to go to state and win a state championship [next
The main reason why Denfeld has risen from being
an also-ran in recent years to state tournament wannabe is the development
of its younger players. First-liners Johnson (30 goals, 48 assists,
78 points), Stafne (37-24—61) and sophomore Cody Hotchkin
(15-27—42) lead the way.
That trio combined for four first-period goals,
but a nongoal perhaps summed up how good they can become. Midway
through the period, Johnson eluded two defenders along the left-wing
boards, and then centered the puck to Stafne, who sent a touch pass
to Hotchkin, who let fly with a shot that Central goalie Trevor
Tracey barely got a pad on. Seconds later, Johnson found Stafne
for the game’s first goal and the first of Stafne’s
natural hat trick.
“We’ve been fortunate to have good,
talented younger guys,’’ Denfeld coach Kevin Smalley
said. “Our JV program has come a long way, and it’s
getting these guys ready to go. [The young players] want to be in
Johnson and Stafne teamed up again on the second
goal, during which Stafne simply guided the puck into the net with
the blade of his stick, and on Stafne’s breakaway goal at
13:20. Skarman and Johnson made it 5-0 with goals less than a minute
apart to end a dominating opening period.
Still, Smalley wasn’t completely satisfied.
“I don’t think we played that well
in the first period, yet we had five goals,’’ he said.
“It seemed like every good opportunity we had, we put it away.
That’s a good sign, but we need to get off to an even better
start than that.”
Denfeld outshot Central 39-21 as Aaron Kolquist
posted his third shutout. The Hunters know they will need a similar
performance against Cathedral, which they beat 9-6 during the regular
“That was a sloppy defensive game,’’
Johnson said. “Hopefully, we can tighten up defensively and
put on an offense like that.”
Don’t bet against it. Stafne has three four-goal
games this season and also scored three times during the Hunters’
10-1 regular-season win over Central (10-16-1). If the younger players
keep improving — and Johnson stays — the Hunters could
contend for their first state berth since 1989.
“It’s nice to have everyone stick
around,’’ Stafne said. “Next year we will be just
as strong. But we’re looking to go all the way [to state]
Duluth Central 0-0-0—0
Duluth Denfeld 5-2-2—9
First period — 1. DD, Chris Stafne (Jake
Johnson), 10:53. 2. DD, Stafne (J. Johnson, Hotchkin), 13:02. 3.
Stafne (Hotchkin, J. Johnson), 13:20. 4. DD, Max Skarman (Charlie
Oliver), 15:11. 5. DD, J. Johnson, 16:08 (pp).
Second period — 6. DD, Skarman (Oliver,
Milan Basnak), 7:19. 7. DD, Josh Wentz (Anthony Leone), 8:26.
Third period — 8. DD, Jack St. John-Stebe
(Leone), 6:11. 9. DD, Stafne (Trent Johnson, J. Johnson), 9:00 (pp).
Saves — Trevor Tracey, DC, 30. Aaron Kolquist,