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CEC girls looking for first victory

Makayla Langenbrunner loves hockey so much she's willing to play her favorite sport wearing a green cast.

The Cloquet sophomore's never-give-up attitude has perhaps influenced the entire Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls hockey team this season. Despite battling a slow start, the traditional challenge-seeking Lumberjacks look hopeful.

One of CEC's top scorers as a freshman center last winter, Langenbrunner -- second cousin to Jamie -- snapped her wrist after jamming it with the goal pipe in an early-season scrimmage. She practiced with the team again Monday, something she has been doing for about a week.

"It feels good," said Langenbrunner, following Monday's practice session. "I'm anxious to get back. Not so much for myself, but for my teammates. It's been tough."

Second-year CEC Coach Lance Horvat said he wants her to be 100 percent before he brings back his sure-handed goal-scorer.

Scoring has been difficult for the winless Lumberjacks (0-3) thus far, being beaten a combined 12-2 in their first three games with Stillwater, White Bear Lake and Roseville.

CEC travels to Forest Lake Thursday (Nov. 21), and will then host No. 3 Hill-Murray Saturday and rival Grand Rapids-Greenway Tuesday in the old "Barn."

"We have one of the toughest schedules in Minnesota," Horvat said. "In my opinion, it's only going to get us better. We're adjusting kids now, but by January, we'll be ready."

"Last year we started slow, too, but made a pretty good run," said Cloquet center Kayla Baker of CEC's 6-5 double-overtime loss to Elk River-Zimmerman in the semifinals.

Baker, Langenbrunner, and Esko duo Courtney Ketola and CJ Stoyanoff all have experience, while Horvat named Cloquet's Jade Alvillar and Esko's Kaitlyn Miller captains of his defending Lake Superior Conference champion team.

Miller, on varsity since eighth grade, remains optimistic.

"Putting it all together has been tough, but we haven't given up," said the senior right winger. "We're progressing."

As is Langenbrunner, casted still for two more weeks.

"She's doing anything she can to help herself and help others get better," said Carlton goaltender Stacy Nelson.

"I had to face her today," added Esko center Kadee Karkkainen on Monday night. "She's playing like a champ."