Girls hockey captain takes Cloquet hockey to the next levelAt the end, her teammates and coaches called her “Captain Serious,” but Cloquet-Esko-Carlton senior hockey player Carley Esse showed she was all that — and more.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
At the end, her teammates and coaches called her “Captain Serious,” but Cloquet-Esko-Carlton senior hockey player Carley Esse showed she was all that — and more.
The defenseman is headed to Division I Bemidji State next fall as a freshman, and recently earned honors as the Duluth News-Tribune’s player of the year in girls hockey.
“It was a huge honor, to make the all-area team,” Esse said. “It’s a big deal to be named with all those girls that are all unbelievable players.”
Esse led the team in scoring in her senior season with 15 goals and 22 assists for 37 points while playing the same position her dad — CEC boys coach Dave Esse — once did.
“I would say that I’m a strong defenseman,” Carley Esse said. “I’m strong with the puck and like to control the tempo.”
Esse was also a dream player for first-year Lumberjacks Coach Lance Horvat.
“Having Carley on the team was phenomenal,” Horvat said. “She was quiet, but a real leader and she controlled the locker room. That was great for me in my first year.”
Esse played boys hockey until past Pee Wee age and joined the CEC varsity as an eighth-grader. She had three different coaches — Dick Bartholdi, Mike Bushey and finally Horvat — in her five-year varsity career.
“That was hard,” Esse said. “We’ve had a lot of different coaches over our careers in high school and Coach Horvat stepped in and made us feel comfortable.”
“That speaks well of her,” Horvat said. “The three of us weren’t terribly different but each has our own style and philosophy. But Carley understands the game so well I didn’t see a wrinkle or any lack of knowledge about what to do. I tell the kids that hockey is a simple game but the coaches make it more difficult. Carley has always been able to adapt.”
Esse loved her Cloquet experience — and a big part of it was reaching a state tournament as a freshman while playing alongside older sister, Courtney.
“That was unbelievable,” Esse said. “After that we didn’t go to the finals or anything but it was great fun playing for the high school and we were always competitive.”
And now, it’s on to college.
Esse said Bemidji State started sending letters in her freshman year, and never lost contact. She said her decision was simple.
“I guess it reminded me a lot of Cloquet,” Esse said of the Bemidji area, “— the community and the Bemidji State atmosphere. The hockey program is hard working and our town is known for that. Everyone is supportive of them and the college in general and that’s how it is here too.”
After reaching the top of the heap locally, Esse must now re-earn her spurs at the Division I level.
“My goal for the freshman year is to play, be in the top four D and be an asset to the team,” she said. “Hopefully play there, and to be on the power play.”
Horvat said he is confident Esse can help the Beavers.
“I’d like to think she could play,” he said. “She could step in and help the team out. There will be a lot of learning on her part, the game will be a lot faster, and with better players and better teams. But I think she can make a contribution to that team right away.”
The original “Captain Serious” is Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, but Horvat said the local version is quite similar in terms of approach to the game.
“She’s top of the list,” he said. “I had some real good players when I coached at Moose Lake but coming here she ranked right at the top. During games and practices she was always so intense. When you could get her to smile you knew you had done something. You’d put a notch on your calendar.
“She always wanted to be the best she could be and was always a leader,” Horvat added. “The first playoff game against St. Francis was intense at first, so she took the puck end to end, scored the first goal and skated by our bench to tell us that this was what we had worked for. She never wanted to give up being a Lumberjack.”
But for Esse, wearing the jersey, and improving while wearing it, was always the big thing. She thanks her parents, grandparents, and youth coaches John Robideaux and Ron Peterson for helping her improve.
“I would say that you have to put in a lot of time and practice every day as much as you can,” she said. “Get on the ice as much as possible, play in the summer and work out and shoot every day. All the extra stuff. It takes up time, but it’s rewarding.”
And in Carley Esse’s case, Division I hockey is the reward.