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Marshall tops Denfeld thanks to short-handed goal

Brendan Flaherty has had one common denominator to his on-ice success this decade as boys hockey coach at Duluth Marshall: He's had either a member of the Paul or Mahoney families on every team, often times multiple members.

Brendan Flaherty has had one common denominator to his on-ice success this decade as boys hockey coach at Duluth Marshall: He's had either a member of the Paul or Mahoney families on every team, often times multiple members.

Thursday night it was Willie Paul's and Pat Mahoney's turn to shine.

Paul, the fourth brother to play at Marshall, turned aside 23 shots and Mahoney, who followed his two older brothers to the private school, scored the game-winning short-handed goal as Marshall edged Duluth Denfeld 3-2 in a Lake Superior Conference game at the DECC.

The juniors helped put the second-ranked Hilltoppers (15-4 overall, 4-0 LSC) in the driver's seat in the LSC, handing the eighth-ranked Hunters (14-8, 6-1) their first league defeat.

"We're at the end of the run," Flaherty said, referring to Paul and Mahoney being the last members of their generation. "We've been the beneficiaries of a lot of these brother combinations."

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Paul kept the Hunters' top line at bay. The Jake Johnson-Chris Stafne-Cody Hotchkin line entered the game with158 total points, but accounted for just one goal Thursday. Paul made several nice glove saves, which would have made older brothers Ben, Scott and Jason proud -- especially Jason, a goaltender on Marshall's 2006 Class A state runners-up.

"They taught me how to play the game since I was a little kid; I look up to them," Willie Paul said of his brothers. "Jason helped me out a ton. Before every game, he comes to my room and says, 'You can do it, buddy,' and 'Don't be nervous.' It's helped me."

Denfeld scored on only one of its six power-play chances, the last of which was the most costly. Defenseman Trent Johnson mishandled the puck in front of his own net and Mahoney pounced on the miscue, not giving goalie Brad Skurich time to react, for his 10th goal of the season at 11:16 of the third period.

"He was cutting across the net and somehow the puck came off his stick," said Mahoney, whose brothers Mike and Kevin preceded him. "I was just trying to pressure him, and it landed on my tape and I just shot it. Luckily, it went in."

The Hilltoppers, perhaps, were due some good fortune. They blew a 2-0 lead in the final 20 seconds against Warroad last week, allowing the tying goal with 0.1 seconds remaining before losing in overtime.

"The Warroad game was a tough game," Paul said. "It was a heartbreaker, but you learn from those experiences."

Marshall still wasn't fully on its game. Passes were off, scoring chances were held in check and the power play was 0-for-6.

Just 19 seconds after Derek Randall's first goal of the season gave Marshall a 2-1 lead at 9:34 of the third period, Frank Cederstrom tied the game for Denfeld with his fourth goal. Dano Jacques then was sent off for holding, putting the Hilltoppers in a bind until Mahoney capitalized.

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"It's rare for us to steal a game, but I thought we stole that game," Flaherty said. "We played well at times, but our lines were all mixed up and we were out of sync. We had to survive and find a way to win."

Now Flaherty has to find a way to get more Pauls and Mahoneys on the team.

Duluth Marshall 0-1-2--3

Duluth Denfeld 0-1-1--2

First period -- No scoring.

Second period -- 1. DM, Tom Paine, 2:31; 2. DD, Chris Stafne (Jake Johnson, Cody Hotchkin), 13:47 (pp).

Third period -- 3. DM, Derek Randall (David Hafferty), 9:34; 4. DD, Frank Cederstrom, 9:53; 5. DM, Pat Mahoney, 11:16 (sh).

Saves -- Willie Paul, DM, 23 Brad Skurich, DD, 17.

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