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The six Cloquet-Esko-Carlton seniors stand with their parents during introductions at Parents' Night last Thursday. The 'Jacks beat the Duluth Northern Stars that night 2-1. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton seniors lead by example

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Time is running short for the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls hockey team and its six seniors.

The team (14-8-2) closed out its regular season with a 4-1 loss at Hibbing-Chisholm on Monday night, so the time is now to bring down the curtain on some fine high school careers in the playoffs.

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"I told them before the season started that we go as far as they take us," Lumberjacks Coach Lance Horvat said. "They are the leaders of the team, some played up five years ago as eighth-graders when they went to State. They have experience, know the game, and it is their team. They have done a great job running the team in the locker room and on the ice."

The six seniors are:

Alyssa Acheson (goaltender, 6-5-2, 1.95 goals-against average, .935 saves percentage): "She's a gamer," Horvat said. "She enjoys the game, but she always has a smile on her face in practice and keeps everybody loose. She gets more quiet as the game approaches as she sits in the corner locker. She doesn't say a lot during the game but leads by example and is ready to play no matter the opponent."

Katie Beckman (goaltender, 8-3-0, 1.44 goals-against average, .941 saves percentage): "She is more - more quiet than Alyssa but she is very hard-working. She leads by example and does a real good job for the team. You don't hear much from her on the ice but you see her in games and she's great."

The 'Jacks are fortunate in that they have two excellent goaltenders who are both seniors.

"We have two goaltenders, either of whom could start for 90 percent of the teams in the state," Horvat said. "Having to split time can't be easy, but they support each other, they cheer each other on and they talk to each other in games and practices."

Kristi Konietzko (defenseman, 1 goal/7 assists/8 points): "Kristi has a bubbly personality, and is often smiling and laughing about something that isn't about hockey until the game starts," Horvat said. "She's a free spirit - until the puck drops. She's always ready to play and the team has confidence that she will do the job."

Emily Gustafson (forward, 17/14/31): "She's a sparkplug," Horvat said of the team's leading goal scorer. "I don't know if she is the shortest kid on the team but she is all business. She is one of our captains and is all business. She's not afraid to let the other girls know about that passion and she calls people out if she needs to in the locker room. She is always one of the first ones on the ice and one of the last ones off."

Mackenzie Roy (forward, 4/5/9): "She's a grinder, a hard worker, and gives everything she has every time she steps onto the ice," Horvat said. "If there was checking in girls hockey, I think she'd be good at it. She's not scared of the corners, she wins the puck and she comes out smiling. Nobody questions her effort."

Carley Esse (defenseman, 14/19/33): "They call Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks 'Captain Serious' and that's what we call Carley," Horvat said. "She's signed with a Division I team (Bemidji State) so she's obviously working hard. Everyone on our team knows that they need to focus and step up their game to match hers. Carley is a chip off the old block [as the daughter of CEC boys Coach Dave Esse]. I'm lucky if I get a word out of her at practice."

The best part about the six seniors, though, is that they made Horvat's first season as coach easier in terms of a transition to the program.

"They have a great understanding of the game," he said. "They know how to play the game and know what they're doing. They have no problems talking and suggesting and asking questions. They just say 'tell us what to do and we'll do it.'"

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