A year ago – almost to the day – Duluth Marshall lost to Duluth Central (now Denfeld) 3-2 in overtime. The loss hadn’t slipped the minds of the Hilltoppers, and they used that motivation to fuel the fire before the rematch on Thursday night.
“We haven’t been pleased with our performances against them in the last few years, and we just decided we had to come out revved up,” Duluth Marshall coach Brendan Flaherty said. “We got our kids jacked up before the game. They were revved up and ready to go, the seniors were ready to go, and it’s a rivalry game. That’s probably the most revved up I’ve seen them all year.”
Just how gunned up were the Toppers? In the first period, Duluth Marshall not only built a 2-0 lead, but they also scored both of those goals before Duluth Denfeld had registered its second shot on net.
As Flaherty mentioned, a lot of the enthusiasm came from the seniors, who didn’t want to lose what could be their last game against the longtime adversary.
“Coming from that loss last year, which was a heartbreaker in overtime, the boys came ready to play,” said goalie Christian Coffman, who stuffed Duluth Denfeld on all 29 of its shots on goal. “We came out hard. When you play hard, good things happen.”
Enhancing the emotional eruption was the fact that many of the players on both teams grew up either skating on the same teams or playing against each other in the Duluth youth hockey system.
“In the locker room before the game, some of our kids who are from that area of town, who played with those guys in the youth ranks coming up, they really wanted it,” Flaherty said. “Denfeld played well, but we were the better team.”
The familiarity between Duluth Marshall and Duluth Denfeld also breeds a less noticeable trait when these two squads meet – bragging rights.
“I’ve had butterflies for about two days now thinking about this game,” said Coffman. “These are my friends I’m playing against, so [the win and shutout] feels good, and there are some bragging rights.”
Duluth Marshall’s Kris McKinzie scored twice in the first period, four other Hilltoppers added goals in the final 34 minutes and Christian Coffman stopped all 29 shots he faced to give the fifth-ranked Toppers a 6-0 win over rival Duluth Denfeld on Thursday, Feb. 2, at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth.
Eight Duluth Marshall players had at least a point, and the Toppers’ special teams were spectacular, going 3-for-5 on the power play and 6-for-6 on the man disadvantage.
After losing to their crosstown rivals 3-2 a year ago, the Toppers came out in the first period with a chip on their shoulders.
McKinzie scored two nearly identical goals midway through the opening frame, beating Denfeld goalie Zach Thompson with a pair of short-side snipes to help Duluth Marshall build a 2-0 lead.
Ryan Gotelaere added an early second-period power-play goal just 1 minute, 42 seconds after the puck-drop to begin the middle frame. Then, about 8 minutes later, Matt Klassen and Judd Peterson recorded two quick goals to blow the game wide open.
Zachary Isaacson put the game into running time late in the third – his fourth point of the night – on a tap-in from the top of the crease.
Even with the big offensive output from Duluth Marshall, perhaps its best player was Coffman, who made some great saves to make the score look a little more lopsided than it should have been.
Coffman’s best saves came as time was running out. He made two kick saves, then dove over to grab a shot as the horn sounded to preserve the shutout.
Peterson had two assists to go along with his goal; Cameron McClure and Anthony Miller had two assists each; and Michael Damberg had a single assist.
Thompson stopped 33 shots between the pipes for the Hunters (9-10-2), who are off until they battle unbeaten Hermantown on Monday night at Amsoil Arena.
Duluth Marshall (16-6-0) is off until next Thursday, when it travels to Virginia for a big 7A showdown with the Blue Devils.
1. Christian Coffman, Duluth Marshall
The senior goalie came up huge for the Hilltoppers all night, stopping all 29 shots thrown his way for his fourth shutout of the season. Some of the highlights for Coffman were on power-play chances for Duluth Denfeld, when he moved quickly from post-to-post to kick away several grade-A chances.
2. Zachary Isaacson, Duluth Marshall
Isaacson, a senior defenseman, is officially on fire. He had a goal and three assits on Thursday, giving him nine points in the past five games. Isaacson showed some great composure with the puck, making effective passes to create quick rushes and quality scoring looks. On the defensive side of the puck, Isaacson helped Coffman secure the shutout with some stellar play.
3. Judd Peterson, Duluth Marshall
The St. Cloud State recruit showed why he’s been one of the best offensive players in the state this year, racking up a goal and two assists while hitting a pipe and getting another four shots on net. Peterson’s speed is lethal, and his hands put him onto a different level – someone he proved with some absolutely nasty dangles.