The Duluth Denfeld high school boys hockey team impressed a rink-wise collection of high school hockey coaches, opponents and spectators Tuesday night with spirited, strong performances against Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, Duluth Marshall and Hermantown in the annual Lake Superior Conference Jamboree at Essentia Duluth Heritage Center.
The Hunters, under first-year coach Dale Jago, displayed a strong forecheck, excellent team defense and received steady goaltending in the three one-period mini-scrimmages.
It made sense that the defense would be ahead of the offense so early in the preseason, especially since Jago is a former defenseman who starred for the Bulldogs and professionally mostly in Europe.
“Our entire senior class has stepped up as the leaders of our team,” Jago said. “When the seniors are excited, when there’s a new voice in the room and the expectations are high, you’ve got good chemistry.”
A few of the Hunters who were most impressive Tuesday night were senior forwards Brady Bastyr, Luke Ellefson and Jacob Marciniak, junior forwards Payton Budislovich and Zach DeCaro, and senior defensemen Darren Shykes and Ian Dahl. Senior Benjamin LaFont and sophomore Shawn Easty are solid netminders.
“We’re a hard-working, disciplined group,” DeCaro said before Tuesday’s jamboree scrimmages. “Everyone is excited for the new start, and appreciates Coach Jago’s no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point approach. He knows hockey.”
DeCaro, a tenacious forechecker and team leader, said one of the team’s goals is to reach the Section 7A semifinals at the Amsoil Arena — and then see where their momentum takes them in the post-season.
“We’re better than a .500 team playing a strong schedule in the regular season and will surprise some teams, that’s for sure,” said DeCaro.
The Hunters will begin 2017-18 regular-season play with back-to-back nonconference home games at Essentia Duluth Heritage Center against Minnehaha Academy at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Red Wing at 3 p.m. Saturday.