JIt’s never easy to lose a playoff game, but the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls team certainly went down swinging at Grand Rapids-Greenway last Thursday night.
The sixth-seeded ’Jacks fell 3-2 in double overtime to the Thunderhawks with Jordan McLaughlin scoring all three of the home team’s goals, including the winner 5:37 into the second extra session.
“It’s not that I like to lose,” Coach Lance Horvat said, “but I’d rather it be a game like that than getting blown out. The kids were proud of their effort and we gave them a heck of a fight.”
CEC expected a blast from the home team to open the game and they got one, with McLaughlin’s first goal of the game making it 1-0.
“We figured they would hit us hard since we haven’t been scoring a lot of goals,” Horvat said. “I talked with [assistant coach] Pat Meisner after the game and he said it wasn’t a great period but they only scored one. He said, ‘We’re on tonight.’”
He was right. After McLaughlin made it 2-0 in the second period, Kaitlyn Miller cut the lead to 2-1 at 8:32 and Cassie Inman tied the game at 5:24 of the third period.
“We lost the first period, tied the second and won the third,” Horvat said. “The momentum changed and it wasn’t going to be an easy game for them (Grand Rapids-Greenway) either.”
In overtime, the home team dominated the shot board, outshooting CEC 15-2 in the extra sessions, but they couldn’t find a way past Stacy Nelson until McLaughlin’s game winner.
“That double overtime, it wasn’t easy to swallow,” Horvat said. “I’m still thinking things through in my head about that game. I’m very proud of the girls. They have come together quite a bit from the beginning of the year to now. It was a very good effort on their part.”
Having concluded his second season with the program, Horvat is now settled into his job and into the program.
“The work ethic is still amazing with the girls in the program,” he said. “The players know they will be expected to work hard because that’s the tradition of the program, whether it’s losing 9-0 to Benilde or in a double overtime playoff game. It’s a big positive. You put that sweater on and you know you’ll work your tail off.”
The team also says goodbye to six seniors.
“This group did anything asked of them,” Horvat said. “There was never a question. When I was playing them as starters or somewhere else, they went hard all the time and set the tone. They helped pull the team back up from a slow start, kept their heads up and kept the team together.”