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'Jacks make plans for Hockey Day Minnesota

The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey team will take part in the eighth annual Hockey Day Minnesota event, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, in Elk River.

The Lumberjacks will take on Class A power Rochester Lourdes in the first game of the day, facing off at 10:15 a.m. at Handke Pit in Elk River. The game will be televised by Fox Sports North.

"I think it's going to be a cool experience," CEC Coach Dave Esse said. "Everyone wants to play on TV and be interviewed and in the limelight. It's going to be a special day."

Handke Pit is a grouping of outdoor rinks situated in a bowl setting.

"There won't be much wind there, so it's going to be a good place to play," Esse said. "It will help highlight our great sport of hockey."

Lourdes has built a reputation as a solid Class A private school and Esse relishes the matchup.

"We have similar rosters," Esse said. "They've lost key players like we have, and it should be fun."

The 'Jacks are expected to lose senior-to-be Karson Kuhlman to the United States Hockey League (USHL) this winter, with top goalscorer Westin Michaud also trying out for the Corpus Christi team in the North American Hockey League this winter. Westin Michaud's graduated brother Beau is with Brookings in the NAHL and his younger brother Dylan is also expected to try out for a junior team, according to Esse.

The remaining Lumberjacks are looking forward to a high-profile television game.

"The kids were talking about it this summer when we were rumored to be one of the teams selected," Esse said. "We are going to try to make it fun. We want to make it a good experience for the kids."

Esse said he heard from former Elk River coach Tony Sarsland about playing in Handke Pit.

"Tony said that most of the kids in Elk River learn to play hockey there," Esse said. "There are two or three rinks there and he sent me photos. It looks neat."

The special date will mean a change in practice routine for the team.

"I suppose we'll have to try to practice outdoors at some point in time," Esse said. "We play Denfeld on the Thursday before the Saturday TV game so our schedule is tight but we're going to go about things as normally as possible."