Lumberjacks start season with new coach and tough competitionThe Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls hockey team is already on the ice and in full swing, with a new coach and plenty of optimism for the season ahead. Former Moose Lake Area girls coach Lance Horvat takes over the program this winter, replacing Mike Bushey, and while he learns about his players, he knows there is a tradition to uphold.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls hockey team is already on the ice and in full swing, with a new coach and plenty of optimism for the season ahead.
Former Moose Lake Area girls coach Lance Horvat takes over the program this winter, replacing Mike Bushey, and while he learns about his players, he knows there is a tradition to uphold.
“I’m very excited,” Horvat said. “I was a little overwhelmed at first; this is such a big program with great history and tradition from Coach Bart (Dick Bartholdi) to Coach Bushey. There are big shoes to fill.”
Horvat, who also assisted Sherm Liimatainen with the Moose Lake Area boys program in addition to assistant jobs at Chisholm and Two Harbors, will have his players play an up-tempo, pressure-style game.
“We want to put a lot of pressure on the other team and make them make mistakes,” Horvat said. “Cloquet has been traditionally known as a great defensive team with great goaltending and that won’t change because of who we have here, but we’d like to get a little more pressure on the offensive side. That won’t happen overnight.”
Horvat is also very impressed with the team’s overall skill level.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “It totally blew my mind. The first weeks practicing with the girls – especially those who have been here for the last couple of years – were an eye-opener. The skill level is very good.”
The team has six seniors, and is captained by Division I signee Carley Esse, Emily Gustafson and Alyssa Acheson.
“Our seniors bring such leadership,” Horvat said. “We met with them all before the season and told them that this is their team. They need to lead the locker room and we’ll go as far as their leadership will take us.”
“They bring a very strong defensive style to the team and they’re very vocal, which will help with the younger girls and the newer girls,” Horvat added. “They know the Lumberjack way of how we do things and how they have done things. They work very, very hard.”
There is no U-14 youth team this winter, so 36 players – many of them quite young – are practicing with the varsity program.
“We won’t hesitate to change anything that needs changing,” Horvat said. “If I see kids working hard, wherever they are, in JV or younger kids who do well with their ice time, I won’t hesitate to give them more time. Everyone has to earn their spots, and everyone gets a fair shot.”
The team fell 2-0 in its opener against Forest Lake.
“We had some defensive breakdowns and they scored twice in the first period,” Horvat said. “It was a pretty good game. Obviously we would rather have the “W” than the “L”, but we had breakdowns.”
On Friday night, CEC fell 4-3 at Northwoods Credit Union Arena to Roseville Area, ranked fifth in the state according to Let’s Play Hockey magazine. The ’Jacks led 3-1 after two periods thanks to a pair of goals from Gustafson and a single marker by sophomore Ashley Krisak. Esse assisted on two of the goals, which came in a span of 2:15 of the period.
Both of Gustafson’s goals were on the power play, but CEC couldn’t hold the lead in the third period. Allyson Reilly completed the Roseville rally with the winning goal with 6:56 to play. Minnesota Gopher pledge Kate Flug had a goal and three assists for Roseville.
“We played a great game for two periods but fell apart in the third,” Horvat said. “We were much improved from our first game but still had breakdowns.”
On Saturday night, CEC dug itself out of an early 2-0 hole to tie ninth-ranked Stillwater 3-3.
Trailing 2-0 after the first period, Gustafson’s power-play goal at 2:46 of the second got the ’Jacks back into the game. Sara Bustad gave Stillwater a 3-1 lead four minutes later but Gustafson scored another power-play goal just 1:09 after Bustad’s goal to make it 3-2 and scored a shorthanded goal – her fifth in three games – at 5:31 of the third period for the tie.
Acheson made 50 saves in goal for the ’Jacks, who were outshot 53-18 for the contest.
“I was worried after a hard game the night before how we were going to respond in back-to-back tough games,” Horvat said. “The girls all played very well. Obviously we were outshot a lot but they all came together and played a good game versus a very tough team.”
The team’s only other game before Thanksgiving is Tuesday night against Chisago Lakes Area, after the Pine Journal went to press.