CEC challenges Grand Rapids but falls 4-3The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey team fell 4-3 in a hard-fought game against Grand Rapids on Tuesday night but the ’Jacks beat Duluth Central 5-2 on Saturday night at the CARC.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey team fell 4-3 in a hard-fought game against Grand Rapids on Tuesday night at the IRA Civic Center, but there’s no doubt the Lumberjacks team that took the ice in Grand Rapids was a much better one than at the beginning of the season.
The Thunderhawks dismissed the ’Jacks 4-1 in the season opener at the CARC, and coach Dave Esse noted considerable improvement in his team since then.
“The first time we played them was no contest. They handed us our lunch,” Esse said. “They were all over us. But this time in a smaller rink we did what we had to do to stay in the game. We took away time and space for them and scored early.”
Not only did they score early, they did it twice – with Nolan Meyer turning the trick both times. The senior increased his goal total for the season to 24 with goals 1:22 apart midway through the period.
However, the lead didn’t last. Jordan Stejskal made it 2-1 with a goal for Rapids early in the second period as part of a four-goal binge that lasted into the third.
Travis Underwood, Patrick Moore and Nate Mondry all scored to make it 4-2 Thunderhawks with 1:03 to play. However, freshman Karson Kuhlman answered just 18 seconds after Mondry’s goal to make it 4-3 and set up a wild finish.
Once there, Kuhlman, Adam Hanson and Jack McFarlane all had opportunities in the closing seconds but the puck stayed out of the net.
“They reeled us in,” Esse said. “They had a shot from a corner go off a defenseman’s chest and into the net, and found a way to beat us.”
“We had opportunities to tie it,” Esse said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t cash in on one of them. But the bottom line is that we got better from the first time we played them.”
Prior to Tuesday, the ’Jacks beat Duluth Central 5-2 on Saturday night at the CARC. A four-goal second period as part of a 20-4 shot binge in the middle session did the majority of the damage.
Beau Michaud’s power-play goal in the first period started things on the right foot but Jared Anderson and Mark Savage both scored in the first 1:49 of the second to make it 3-0. Before the period was over, Meyer and Ben Michaud had both found the range as well to make it 5-0 before Colin Magnuson got Central on the board with a power-play goal late in the period.
Levi Talarico scored the only goal of the third period for Central as the ’Jacks outshot their guests 40-26. John Scheuer made 24 saves in the CEC goal.
“We had a heck of a second period,” Esse said. “It was a good high school game. We got on our toes and really set the tempo right away. In the second period we got some bounces and made a few things happen. We won the game and we stayed healthy which is always good.”
The win was the second of the season for CEC over Central, a team the ’Jacks beat 7-2 in the finals of the Heritage Center tournament on Dec. 30.
“I thought Saturday was a better game,” Esse said. “That night in Duluth, we got them on their heels and nothing really went right for them (Central). We played well enough to win both games.”
CEC also had a 4-3 overtime win against Superior last Thursday in the first game for the school at the new Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
The ’Jacks had a 3-1 lead after two periods, thanks to two goals from Adam Hanson and a third from Ben Michaud. However, CEC coughed up that lead in the last three minutes of regulation play as Nolan Holcombe scored a shorthanded goal for the Spartans and Daniel Litchke scored the tying goal with 12 seconds to play.
However, once in overtime, the ’Jacks prevailed. The freshman, Kuhlman, was the hero with a goal 2:50 into the extra session after being sprung on a long pass from Chaise Jokinen.
Boyd Smith made 21 saves on 24 shots in the CEC nets, as the ’Jacks outshot the Spartans 33-24.
CEC is now 12-5-0 on the season and has won eight of its last 10 games. The team will host Duluth Marshall Tuesday night at the CARC before playing a section game at Andover on Thursday.