Duluth Denfeld's Nick Forbort scored two goals and an assist in the Hunters' 6-4 victory over Greenway. Photo by Howie Hanson
Standing only 5-foot-8, Duluth Denfeld forward Levi Talarico isn’t the most noticeable guy off the rink.
However, when he steps on the ice, he’s impossible to miss. Armed with the combination of wheels, precision passing and the knack for finding the back of the net, Talarico has been a thorn in the side of opponents ever since he burst onto the varsity hockey scene in 2009 as a freshman – he’s stockpiled 36 goals and 87 points in just 55 games.
Now a junior, Talarico has wasted little time picking up right where he left off in previous years, producing nine points in three games entering Denfeld’s contest against Greenway on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
“Levi gets a lot of opportunities, and the last few games he’s been a little frustrating for the other team,” Duluth Denfeld coach Kevin Smalley said. “You take a kid with that kind of speed and you take a couple kids around him (linemates Nick Forbort and Alex Thompson) that are working to get him the puck and it works out pretty good.”
Against the Raiders, Talarico added another great game to his résumé. Although he didn’t score on any of his 11 shots, he did assist on four of the Hunters’ six goals, won 19 of 25 draws and made some superb moves around Greenway players, showing off his dangling ability and creativity.
Talarico says his success against every opponent is more of a collective line effort, though.
Duluth Denfeld's Matthew Mattila controls the puck during the Hunters' victory over Greenway. Photo by Howie Hanson
“Since Forbort came over to our school, I feel like our line has formed pretty good,” Talarico said. “We have good chemistry, move the puck well to each other and are talking well. I like our line, I think we’re really competitive.”
With the way Talarico says he tries to play, it’s not surprising that his favorite National Hockey League player is Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, a speedy playmaker who isn’t afraid to shoot the puck.
“He’s small, and he’s got explosive speed,” Talarico said. “He’s always finding guys, he’s always reading guys and moving the puck clean.”
Kane is one of the hardest working players on and off the ice for the Blackhawks, and, according to Smalley, Talarico fills that role for the Hunters.
“He’s a great student, he’s got all-academic honors, and those kinds of things obviously weigh heavily on a kid’s future,” Smalley said. “That rubs off. The rest of it, if he’s going to play at the next level, everything will come together for him.”
With his talent and leadership, Talarico simply makes his teammates better. Not only is he helping them score or lockup the defensive zone, but he also pushes them in practice.
“We try to get our other kids a lot of exposure against them,” Smalley said, referring to Talarico and his line. “Our guys get a little frustrated because at practice it’s difficult, just like in a game, but we feel like we practice like we play."
“If we can continue to get better, we feel good about where we’re at.”
Senior defenseman Bill Grillo scored two third-period goals, including the eventual game-winner on a power play, while forwards Levi Talarico and Nick Forbort combined for seven points to help Duluth Denfeld win a high-scoring battle against Greenway, 6-4, on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Heritage Sports Center in Duluth.
Senior Jordan Buetow added a goal and assist for the Hunters (3-1), and Alex Thompson, Nick Thompson and Brendan Johnson all had one assist each.
Zach Thompson got the win between the pipes, making 11 saves in the process.
Despite leading by a goal on four occasions and holding a huge lead in shots on net, Denfeld couldn’t put the Raiders away until the final period.
After Forbort’s first goal put the Hunters up 1-0, Greenway was able to capitalize on a 5-on-3 advantage. Brody Geisler’s shot from high in the zone beat Zach Thompson through traffic to tie the game.
The teams traded goals before the end of the first, and Denfeld again pulled ahead by the time second period had finished. But, like they did for most of the game, the Raiders battled right back.
While on another 5-on-3 power play, Bazil Zuehlke popped home a rebound from the edge of the crease to knot the game at four just over 1 minute into the final period. For the night, Greenway was 2-for-5 on the power play.
But Duluth Denfeld didn’t appear to be rattled, and responded with several good shifts. They Hunters drew a power play of their own, then made Greenway pay.
On their first man advantage of the night, Denfeld worked the puck around the perimeter trying to find a shooting lane. Ultimately, Talarico softly dished a pass to Grillo, who blasted a shot from the point past Greenway goalie Erikur Arnason’s blocker, putting Denfeld up for good with 9 minutes, 35 seconds to play.
Even though he surrendered six goals, Arnason was spectacular between the pipes for the Raiders, stopping 54 shots. Zuehlke had three helpers to go along with his goal, and Alex Troumbly had a three-point night.
Greenway (3-1) has a week off before playing host to Proctor on Tuesday, Dec. 13.
The Hunters had 21 shots in both the first and third periods, and finished with a power play and shorthand goal.
Duluth Denfeld will make the long trip south on I-35 to play South St. Paul this Friday.
1. Bill Grillo, Duluth Denfeld
Grillo was a rock at the blue line all night, allowing the Hunters to hold Greenway to only 15 shots. He was quick in transition, threw a lot of pucks at the net and scored the eventual game-winner.
2. Erikur Arnason, Greenway
The former Elite League goalie made 54 saves for the Raiders, and kept Greenway in the contest during Duluth Denfeld’s flurries. He ate up tons of shots and, when he did give up a rare rebound, was usually able to direct pucks to the corners.
3. Levi Talarico, Duluth Denfeld
The speedy junior made some pretty dekes, but his ability to create chances was the real plus for him. Talarico had four assists, 11 shots on goal and won 19 draws, many of which lead to puck ownership in the offensive zone.