CEC routs Duluth Central to win Heritage ClassicCEC routed Duluth Central 7-2 in the Heritage Holiday Classic championship game at the Heritage Center Thursday.
By: Rick Weegman/Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal
At times during the previous two mediocre seasons, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton coach Dave Esse acknowledges there were those in town who wanted him to lose his job.
“You’re always going to have detractors; I’m sure there were people who wanted me fired,” Esse said Thursday night. “If you win or are in the section final, you’re a good coach. If you don’t, then all of a sudden the next year you’re not.”
According to that theory, Esse must be in line for coach of the year after CEC routed Duluth Central 7-2 in the Heritage Holiday Classic championship game at the Heritage Center.
The Lumberjacks suffered through a 15-35-4 record the past two seasons, but improved to 8-3 after sweeping three games in three days and going unbeaten in the tournament a second straight year.
Senior Jack McFarlane and freshman Karson Kuhlman each scored two goals and defenseman Max Reinertsen had three assists, while goaltender John Scheuer stopped 28 shots.
McFarlane, a senior forward who was named the tournament’s most valuable player, was a key member of those losing teams in 2008-09 and 2009-10. He says players didn’t lose confidence, knowing better days were ahead.
“We knew we didn’t have the greatest skill in the world,” said McFarlane, who is second on the team with 11 goals. “Other teams have a larger pool of kids to choose from, and we didn’t have that. There were some tough times, but we kept working hard.”
Esse believes losing, in many ways, was beneficial for a young team.
“It makes you a better coach and a better person,” he said. “Things aren’t always going to go smoothly. Very few people get a silver spoon. There’s only about 15 schools in the state of Minnesota that you know are going to be (among the best every year) … the rest of us are going to have a lot of trials and tribulations and a lot of peaks and valleys and bumps in the road.”
For now, at least, there are more peaks than valleys. With McFarlane’s creativity, Nolan Meyer’s sharpshooting (he scored his team-high 17th Thursday) and youngster Kuhlman’s speed, the Lumberjacks could still be a player in Section 7AA.
“Our goal every year is that Section 7AA championship game,” Esse said. “We just want to get better and play our best hockey (in the playoffs).”
The Lumberjacks lost 4-0 two weeks ago to section favorite East, but have outscored foes 28-9 in four games since.
“We’re starting to believe in each other and believe in ourselves,” McFarlane said. “This was night and day from the East game. That was definitely our worst game of the year and instead of going backward, we went forward.”
Central fell to 6-6.
* Joining McFarlane on the all-tournament team were teammate Nolan Meyer, Central’s Matt Kero, Andover’s Davis Tolette, Bemidji’s Max Hazelton, Buffalo’s Sam Klein, Rosemount’s Connor Landfield and New Prague’s Cole Mason.
Duluth Central 0-1-1—2
First period — 1. CEC, Jack McFarlane, 4:55.
Second period — 2. CEC, Karson Kuhlman (McFarlane, Max Reinertsen), 1:28; 3. DC, Ben Wrazidlo (Matt Kero), 3:45; 4. CEC, Nolan Meyer (Kuhlman, Reinertsen), 5:07; 5. CEC, Joey Singpiel (Mark Savage, Justin Hammann), 11:48; 6. CEC, Savage (Tanner Robideaux), 16:31 (pp).
Third period — 7. CEC, McFarlane (Kuhlman), 3:30 (pp); 8. CEC, Kuhlman (Reinertsen, Savage), 6:29 (sh).
Saves — John Scheuer, CEC, 28; Zach Thompson, DC, 25.