Tallackson hears no evil as uneven career nears end

Great expectations behind him, Barry Tallackson just wants another playoff run.

by Ben Goessling

The criticism still rings in Barry Tallackson’s ears. At this point, it’s hard not to hear it.

The Minnesota men’s hockey senior forward is nearing the end of an uneven career, and there’s not much left he can do to fix the perception of him.

Instead, he’s just decided to stop listening.

“The first couple years, I thought about it,” Tallackson said. “But I’ve just got to face the music. If people want to criticize, that’s fine with me. I know what I can do; my teammates know what I can do. I believe I perform every single night. It’s just the way things happened.”

Tallackson, for the most part, has been a very serviceable forward for the Gophers during the last four years. He is one of the team’s most physical players and has averaged more than a point per game in the playoffs.

But the problem is, that hasn’t been enough for most people.

When he arrived in Minneapolis from the U.S. National Team Development Program four years ago, it seemed Tallackson had the pedigree and the skills to be the Gophers’ next big star.

He walked in a hulking 6 feet 4 inches and 196 pounds, possessing the size, speed and shot to score goals in bunches.

The Red Line Report scouting service ranked him the top freshman in the country, and most Gophers fans thought they’d be watching a revolution at the forward position.

Instead, what they got was a talented forward who produced an eye-popping goal just frequently enough to drive everyone nuts.

“It’s fair to say we expected him to do more from an offensive standpoint,” coach Don Lucia said. “I thought he was capable of being a 20-goal guy, but he’s been in and out in his play.”

Tallackson tied for third in the WCHA in freshman scoring with 23 points in 2001-02 but upped that total by just one point the next season.

Even after he scored two goals in the national championship game against New Hampshire in 2003, Tallackson’s critics kept firing.

“The expectations were set so high. It’s hard for anybody to meet that,” said Gino Guyer, Tallackson’s frequent linemate. “People say, ‘Oh, he’s not working hard, he doesn’t care,’ and that’s completely false. At times, he gets down on himself. It has nothing to do with how hard he’s working. It’s just a mindset thing.”

Things didn’t get any better for Tallackson his junior year. He scored just one point more than his sophomore season. Youth wasn’t an excuse anymore, and griping over Tallackson’s play reached a fever pitch.

After missing eight games with a high ankle sprain early this season, Tallackson fell all the way to the fourth line in the first game of Minnesota’s series with Wisconsin on Feb. 4-5.

But it was there Tallackson’s customary late-season turnaround began. He muscled past Badgers defender Jeff Likens for the game-winning goal in the second game and has five points in the eight games since.

One more big playoff run probably wouldn’t be enough to vindicate Tallackson. Gophers fans had him pegged as the team’s next big star, and he hasn’t been that.

However Tallackson’s career winds up, it’s just going to have to be good enough for the critics.

“Every player wants to have success. I wanted to be (a goal-scorer). It just didn’t pan out,” he said. “I’m not going to look back and have regrets. But when it comes down to it, if we get another national championship, our class will go down as one of the top classes. We may not have the numbers, but we know how to win.”