Hilltoppers change sections but retain same goals
The 2003-04 boys high school hockey season has brought some changes to Duluth Marshall. The Hilltoppers made a move from Section 7A to Section 2A this season. A junior varsity program has also been implemented for the first time. "A JV team is so...
The 2003-04 boys high school hockey season has brought some changes to Duluth Marshall.
The Hilltoppers made a move from Section 7A to Section 2A this season. A junior varsity program has also been implemented for the first time.
"A JV team is something we have really missed out on in past years," said coach Brendan Flaherty, who is entering his ninth season at Marshall. "This will get some kids more playing time and experience."
In the past, the Hilltoppers have not had enough players to make up a JV team. Having the players for it now provides varsity players who see little ice time a chance to play regularly.
The junior varsity team is scheduled to play 18 games during the season.
Another change Marshall has seen in recent years is the construction of its on-campus rink, Mars Lakeview Arena.
"You can't beat a 3:30 p.m. practice and be home by 6," said senior forward Scott Paul, talking about the rink's close proximity to the school.
"It's fun to see the kids coming down here after school," said Flaherty. "They love the atmosphere of the locker room. It's something they can call their own."
During the season in any high school sport, talk sometimes turns to the goal of participating in the state tournament. Marshall was there in 2001, and it certainly would like to get back there. Flaherty warns though that his players should not be looking that far ahead.
"We want to keep the kids from doing that," said Flaherty. "Everyone has dreams and goals, but our goals are more short-term. I want us to improve from game to game."
There will be no time to look ahead for Marshall because of the opponents it faces throughout the season. The Hilltoppers open up its season with back-to-back games against the state's co-No.1 teams in Class A Breck and the Blake School.
The Hilltoppers also face teams like Totino-Grace, Benilde-St. Margaret's, St. Cloud Cathedral, Rochester Lourdes and Cloquet, leaving no room to overlook anyone.
"It's a pretty tough schedule," said senior forward Phil Meyer. "We have to go out there and play physical."
"Our schedule is so challenging this year," said senior forward Bryan Sederberg. "We have to focus on each game and play together as a unit."
"Every opponent is pretty good," said senior forward Scott Paul. "You can't look ahead because you won't see the team you play tomorrow."
This season, Marshall has a healthy number of quality players at every position, making for a very balanced lineup.
"We have three lines competing for the first line, five defensemen who could start, and three goalies competing for playing time," said Sederberg.
Seniors Casey Geissler and Andy Messer will be seeing time in goal. Sophomore Jason Paul will also be battling for minutes.
"Having three goalies is an advantage," said Flaherty. "They're going to push each other to do better."
The Hilltoppers spent last weekend in Warroad preparing for the regular season by scrimmaging several teams. Flaherty says the trip was productive and should help the squad during the season.
The trip allowed the Hilltoppers to get a taste of what they would be up against this season.
"It certainly will benefit playing at a faster pace," said senior defenseman Dan Moline. "We still have a lot of work to do."
When arriving at Marshall nine years ago, Flaherty inherited a program that was more used to losing. Today, Marshall's hockey program has grown into one of the top teams in Class A. All of the changes over the years are something Flaherty, a Duluth Cathedral graduate, is thrilled to see.
"I am very proud of where this program has come," said Flaherty. "It means everything in the world to me that the program has turned around."