Elk River upsets CEC in Section 7AA quarterfinalsThe Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey team played a dominant first period, tied the game twice in its later stages, and gave a strong, solid effort but still fell 4-3 at Elk River in the Section 7AA quarterfinals Tuesday night.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey team played a dominant first period, tied the game twice in its later stages, and gave a strong, solid effort but still fell 4-3 at Elk River in the Section 7AA quarterfinals Tuesday night.
“Once again our goaltender played well,” CEC Coach Dave Esse said. “I was disappointed that we didn’t capitalize on the power play again. We did a lot of the things you aren’t supposed to do in playoff games and we lost.”
The ’Jacks were 0-for-3 on power plays including two opportunities in the first period where the team outshot their hosts 14-5.
“We practiced [the power play] more than ever this year and it wasn’t as good at the end,” Esse said. “I can’t tell you what the answer is but at this point it’s safe to say we didn’t capitalize.”
Still, CEC had a 1-0 lead after the first period thanks to a goal from sophomore Westin Michaud at the 8:33 mark of the period.
“Westin was a player who came up from bantams,” Esse said. “He had a hard time adjusting to the speed of the varsity game but once he did, he really came on strong.”
The Elks, playing without their longtime coach, Tony Sarsland, who resigned two weeks ago amid a school district investigation, tied the game on Andrew Zerban’s goal 1:31 into the second period. They took the lead on their only power play of the night through Peter Jones at 9:49.
It took CEC just 39 seconds to respond to falling behind, with Beau Michaud beating Elks goaltender Anders Franke at 10:28 to tie the game at 2-2 after two periods.
The teams then combined for three goals in a span of 1:24 of the third period – but unfortunately for the ’Jacks, Elk River scored two of them.
Ryan Heid made it 3-2 for Elk River at 1:55, only to see Westin Michaud tie the game for CEC just 32 seconds later.
That was the last tie of the game, however; Zerban’s second goal of the game at 3:19 was the game-winner for the Elks.
The ’Jacks were outshot 34-29 for the contest, with John Scheuer making 30 saves in his final game wearing the Lumberjack uniform.
“He had a great season,” Esse said of Scheuer. “I think he was our most valuable player all season long. He played like a leader, like a senior is supposed to play. The junior team coaches have come to see him, he’s going to be in the (Duluth area) All Star game, and hopefully he’ll make the Great Eight team.”
Esse also noted the Elks’ physical style of play.
“It was a chippy game,” he said. “Their third goal, [Heid] just ran over John and he and the puck both wound up in the net. How that was a goal, I’ll never know.
“We saw at least three blows to the heads of our players which are supposed to be major penalties, but they really finished their checks whenever our first unit was on the ice,” Esse added. “It was a playoff game, called completely differently from the regular season.”
Esse was disappointed his team didn’t put the game away in the first period.
“We should have been ahead 3-0 or 4-0,” he said. “Some of our key players missed opportunities but we didn’t execute odd-man rushes and we didn’t do well on special teams.”
Esse also had words of praise for junior Beau Michaud.
“He was our most hard-nosed player,” Esse said. “He showed me in the Elk River game that he’ll do just about anything to win. I’m proud of him. He’s going to be a great senior leader for us next season.”
In the end, though, the ’Jacks (17-9-0) are on the outside looking in as the playoffs resume.
“I think we had a successful season,” Esse said. “We lost nine games, six of them were by one goal and three of them were in overtime. What we need to do in the off-season is to have the players rededicate themselves to conditioning and dedicate themselves to mental toughness on the ice. We weren’t mentally tough at times and that cost us.”
Esse is also excited about the prospect of competition for playing time next season among his players.
“We have players coming up from the bantams who can skate,” he said. “We had 32 players this season with 35 available spots. We’ve got five graduates so we’re going to see some serious competition.”