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Prep boys hockey: Greyhounds shut out Hunters in rivalry game

The Greyhounds have won six of their last eight games and are playing "we over me" this season, according to coach Steve Pitoscia.

high school boys play ice hockey
Cole Christian (5) of Duluth East celebrates after scoring a goal near Brady McGinn (20) of Duluth Denfeld at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — It didn’t take long to set the tone for Duluth East’s win over Duluth Denfeld Tuesday at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center.

Just 27 seconds into the game, Cole Christian found the back of the net and give the Greyhounds an early lead in their 4-0 win over Denfeld.

“It was just a fortunate bounce and I just happened to grip it and rip it,” Christian said.

East kept the pressure on the Hunters throughout the game, firing off 43 shots on goalie Connor Doyle while allowing just 10.

high school boys play ice hockey
Duluth Denfeld goaltender Connor Doyle (33) deflects a shot on goal against Duluth East at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Greyhounds coach Steve Pitoscia said he felt confident following practice Monday and said the team has put a 4-1 loss Saturday to No. 2 Minnetonka in the rearview mirror. “We were so crisp, we worked so hard and so fast last night at practice, I just don’t think that you can be like that one day and just be miserable the next,” Pitoscia said. “After last night’s practice I felt pretty confident today just because of how they responded to losing to Minnetonka on Saturday. We’ve done a really good job moving forward. It was never really brought up by anybody and we got down to business.”

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Trailing 2-0 in the second period, the Hunters looked to get back in the game when they had a 5-on-3 opportunity. Instead of Denfeld shrinking the lead, the Greyhounds had more opportunities for a shorthanded goal.

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Thomas Gunderson (15) of Duluth Denfeld skates against Andy Larson (16) of Duluth Denfeld at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“We had a 5-on-3 tonight and we’re making 1-on-1 plays in the corner,” Hunters coach Dale Jago said. “If we score there, it’s 2-1 at that point. All of a sudden we’re back in the hockey game, we’ve broken the glass ceiling. Now, it’s we can play, but we didn’t play quick enough. They were quicker and they played faster and they played harder.”

Duluth East (9-6-1) is now 6-1-1 in its last eight games, with wins over defending state champion Andover Dec. 20 and Grand Rapids Jan. 6.

While Christian leads the team with 28 points this season, it’s the team’s checking line that is emblematic of the Greyhounds’ resurgence this season. Last season, East struggled to just eight wins, punctuated by a 6-2 loss to Denfeld that was marred by ugly penalties, mostly on the Greyhounds.

high school boys play ice hockey
Makoto Sudoh (8), Caden Cole (26) and Hunter Cooke (28), all of Duluth East, celebrate a goal against Duluth Denfeld at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The line — which includes seniors Makoto Sudoh, Boden Donovan and Hunter Cooke — has given the Greyhounds 21 points, but it’s not scoring that makes the line special.

“It illustrates how the team has really put 'we over me' to the forefront,” Pitoscia said. “You’ve got three seniors, this is their last chance at high school hockey and they’re not worried about high school hockey. Of course they want to score goals and put up points — who doesn’t — but they know their first priority is to shut down the other team.”

Donovan said the line’s role is to “fly around the ice” and wear out the other team’s top line. That gives Christian’s line a little breathing room knowing they don’t have to score and shut down an opponent’s top line at the same time.

high school boys play ice hockey
Cole Christian (5) of Duluth East puts the puck on goal against Duluth Denfeld goaltender Connor Doyle at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Cooke said while the line might not be receiving the accolades, he wants to do what he can to make sure the Greyhounds keep piling up wins.

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“100%, I love it,” Cooke said. “If the team is winning, that’s ultimately what we want. At the end of the day we want to go to the state tournament, so if our team is winning, that’s the ultimate goal.

Pitoscia said there is still too much hockey to be played to think about the state tournament, but there is something special about this group and it’s “starting to feel more like East hockey again.”

high school boys play ice hockey
Makoto Sudoh (8) of Duluth East looks for the puck after checking Brady McGinn (20) of Duluth Denfeld at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“Those guys have been here a long time, this is the fourth or fifth year for some of those guys and the team has been down over those years,” he said. “We’re talking about kids who grew up watching this and seeing how special a program it’s been and they’re so hungry for that…They worry about the right things, they care about each other. They’re happy if somebody else scores a goal because the team is going to win. They’re not in fights over points and stuff like that. It’s just such a breath of fresh air and it’s so fun to come to the rink with these guys.”

high school boys play ice hockey
Duluth East players celebrate after Cole Christian (5) scored a goal against Duluth Denfeld during the first period at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Duluth East will next play at Cloquet-Esko-Carlton at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Duluth Denfeld (10-6-1) will host East Grand Forks at 7 p.m. Friday.

Duluth Denfeld 0-0-0—0

Duluth East 2-1-1—4

First period scoring — 1. DE, Cole Christian (Thomas Gunderson), 0:27; 2. DE, Caden Cole (Henry Murray), 4:08.

Second period scoring — 3. DE, Wyatt Peterson (Gunderson, C. Christian), 5:58.

Third period scoring — 4. Ian Christian (Cole, Noah Teng), 15:13

Saves — Connor Doyle, DD, 39; Kole Kronstedt, DE, 10.

high school boys play ice hockey
Cole Christian (5) of Duluth East skates against Jake Feiro (21) of Duluth Denfeld at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
high school boys play ice hockey
Duluth East goaltender Kole Kronstedt (39) covers the puck against Duluth Denfeld at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
high school boys play ice hockey
Nolan Harju (12) of Duluth Denfeld skates against Cole Christian (5) of Duluth East at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
high school boys play ice hockey
Duluth Denfeld goaltender Conor Doyle (34) makes a stick save against Duluth East at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center on Tuesday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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