Duluth Marshall has rotated goaltenders all season, including Christian Coffman and Caden Flaherty (above), both of whom have goals against averages well under 3.00. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen
Hibbing/Chisholm's Adam Johnson (7) has missed part of the season, but still has racked up more than 50 points. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen
At this time last season, 7A was essentially a big rock, paper, scissors tournament. Although Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl was the top seed and favorite, four or five teams had the ability to pull the section sweep and advance to the state tournament.
Fast forward a year, and even though things are still bunched up in the middle, it’s clear that one team sits alone atop the 7A mountain entering the section tournament – Duluth Marshall.
The Hilltoppers (18-6-0) racked up a 4-0-0 record against section foes, outscoring those teams by a combined 27-4 score.
The biggest reason that Duluth Marshall is popping home five goals per night is Mr. Hockey finalist and future St. Cloud State Husky Judd Peterson (37-33-70). Peterson hasn’t been the only Topper to torment opponents, though, as forwards Kris McKinzie (22-17-39) and Matt Klassen (10-12-22) have also scored 10 or more goals.
While the section may be Duluth Marshall’s to lose, No. 2 Hibbing/Chisholm (13-11-0), the defending section champion, will be looking to knock off the Hilltoppers and make the repeat trip to the X.
Minnesota-Duluth’s prized recruit Adam Johnson (24-28-52) was injured during the middle portion of season, but his return has helped the Bluejackets get back to their winning ways.
Tyler Carlson (9-10-0, 3.36, .884) has found himself between the pipes in almost every game this year, and he will have to come up huge for Hibbing in the playoffs.
Duluth Denfeld's Levi Talarico (8) hopes to lead the Hunters to a handful of upsets in the Section 7A playoffs. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen
No. 3 International Falls (15-10-0) has quietly put together a strong season, and has the scoring depth to make a run. Lucas Debenedet (26-30-56), Brett Musich (13-22-35) and Mason Meyer (21-13-34) lead the Broncos’ attack, making goalie Wes Gunnerson (13-10-0, 3.15, .869) a bit more comfortable stepping into the crease each night.
No. 4Duluth Denfeld (10-13-2) doesn’t boast a sparkling record, but the Hunters sure are battle tested. That experience will help them in the playoffs, as will forwards Levi Talarico (18-23-41), Nick Forbort (14-12-26) and Jordan Buetow (11-11-22). Speaking of experience, junior netminder Zach Thompson (6-11-1, 3.74, .885) has plenty of it, and he’s going to have to be Duluth Denfeld’s best player in the tournament.
Not to be overlooked is last year’s favorite, fifth-seeded Virginia/Mt. Iron-Buhl (12-12-0). The Blue Devils have struggled at times this season, but guys like Marc Krebsbach (16-39-55), Blair Seitz (11-37-48) and Tyler Goodrie (23-18-41) will help them put up a fight against 7A’s best.
The common theme to Section 7A champions in the past is a top-end forward, and Duluth Marshall has just that. Judd Peterson has put up ridiculous numbers all year, and that trend is almost certain to continue in the playoffs. The Hilltoppers rolled through section opponents this year, too, making it hard to pick against them.
Duluth Denfeld hasn’t had the year many thought the Hunters would, but this team is still capable of an upset. With a tough schedule in the past month and change, the Hunters are battle tested. Forward Levi Talarico has the ability to take a game over, as does goalie Zach Thompson.
2011 - Hibbing/Chisholm
2010 – Virginia/MIB
2009 – Virginia/MIB
2008 – Duluth Marshall
2007 – Hermantown
2006 – Hermantown
2005 – Virginia/MIB
2004 – Hibbing
2003 – Hibbing
2002 – International Falls
2001 – Duluth Marshall
2000 – International Falls
1999 – Silver Bay
1998 – Eveleth
1997 – Proctor
1996 – Duluth Central
1995 – International Falls
1994 – Hibbing