Duluth East celebrates a goal against Moorhead earlier this season. The 'Hounds are the top seed in the Section 7AA playoffs. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen.
Duluth East's Beau Hughes. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen.
Since being knocked out of the section tournament by rival Cloquet/Esko/Carlton in 2008, Duluth East has been the unquestioned king of Section 7AA. The Greyhounds have won each of the past four section titles and have only lost to one section opponent – a 3-2 setback against Elk River in January 2010 – during that stretch.
But as the Hounds have continued to click at a high level over the last four seasons, the rest of 7AA has regrouped. This year, several teams believe they’ve finally caught up to the pace that Duluth East has set and are confident they could be the ones to finally knock the Hounds off their 7AA high horse.
Even so, Duluth East (21-4-0) battled through a maturation process and proved its mettle to earn the top seed once again. After losing tons of talent off last year’s Class 2A fifth-place team, the Hounds started 4-3-0 and struggled to find consistency. Since then, though, Duluth East has gone 17-1-0 and is riding a 13-game winning streak.
Led up front by its top line of Jack Forbort (19-33—52), Alex Toscano (18-29—47) and Ryan Lundgren (17-18—35), Duluth East is again averaging more than four goals each game while the power play hovers around the 42-percent mark. Defensemen Meirs Moore (17-21—38) and Phil Beaulieu (6-21—27) have chipped in heavily on the offensive side of the puck, too, giving the Hounds a dangerous combination of skill in all areas of the offensive zone.
Scoring goals isn’t what this team hangs its hat on, though. Instead, Duluth East has made it clear that defense is its main focus, giving up just 1.68 goals per game during the regular season. Hard-hitters Andrew Kerr (0-5—5) and Alex Trapp (4-7—11) are prototypical defensive-defensemen and have been huge contributors to the intangible aspects of the game that have made the Hounds so tough to play against this year.
Senior goalie Dylan Parker (15-4-0, 1.74, .913) is more experienced and has settled into a groove lately, adding to the shutdown ability of Duluth East.
Grand Rapids' Avery Peterson. Photo by Adam Crane.
Elk River's Mac Berglove. Photo by Brian Nelson.
Duluth East may not have the high-end talent or the ridiculous depth that it had last year, but this edition of the Greyhounds has totally bought into what coach Mike Randolph has been preaching all year – team defense. The ‘Hounds are allowing less than two goals a night, have a penalty kill that’s clicking at a 90-percent clip and are built for the grind-it-out, tight games the playoffs offer.
The Lumberjacks believe they are better than their seed would indicate, and they are out to prove it. Cloquet has the firepower to simply outscore opponents, and in a one-and-done situation like the section playoffs, the offensive explosiveness of the 'Jacks could spell trouble for one of the teams ranked above them.
2012 – Duluth East
2011 – Duluth East
2010 – Duluth East
2009 – Duluth East
2008 – Cloquet
2007 – Grand Rapids
2006 – Grand Rapids
2005 – Duluth East
2004 – Duluth East
2003 – Duluth East
2002 – Cloquet
2001 – Greenway
2000 – Duluth East
1999 – Elk River
1998 – Duluth East
1997 – Duluth East
1996 – Duluth East
1995 – Duluth East
1994 – Duluth East