In ice hockey, there are times where a team is shorthanded.
Yet, I believe the Cloquet 12-and-Under girls hockey team recently redefined how to take the ice undermanned.
I call them the 'Nifty Nine.'
Nine, as in eight skaters on the ice, one goaltender, all with one mindset throughout last weekend: a district championship.
Despite skating with just two lines, a pair of defensemen and their single netminder last weekend, Cloquet won the District 11 championship Sunday afternoon in Silver Bay.
Their feat of winning it all, understaffed, dumbfounds me.
A usual hockey team sports three, sometimes four lines, anywhere from four to six defensemen, and two or three goalies.
Cloquet was less than half that size en route to the title.
"They got tired, of course," said Coach Dick Bartholdi. "Every once and a while, we were able to get a water break."
Third-seeded Cloquet broke open district play with a victory over host Silver Bay Friday, before upsetting the defending Minnesota state champions, Moose Lake, by a goal in three overtimes. Assistant Coach Steve Martin estimated that game took just under two hours to complete.
Steve's daughter, Ally Martin, a Cloquet seventh-grade defenseman, was on the ice for all but one shift, along with the team's leading scorer, Keagen Anderson, a Cloquet sixth-grader.
Ally admitted she was winded when all was said and done.
"Yes, a lot," she said. "It was very tough, but we knew we had to keep it going. I think it motived us to play our best."
Cloquet then bested Proctor-Hermantown Blue 4-1 Sunday for all of the marbles. Following the final whistle, all the players immediately celebrated by hugging goalie Elise Lund.
"That was a pretty hard game," said Cloquet sixth-grade left winger Josie Steen, who scored her team's first goal Sunday. "But I think we all gave it as much as we could have. Hockey is just a fun thing; so we just went out there and played our game."
Bartholdi, also assisted by Dave Anderson, has been involved with hockey since 1967. He said last weekend's feat reminded him of Blaine's Class AA state title run with two lines.
"It can be done," Bartholdi said, thinking back, "but I'm so proud of these girls. We barely had enough to put a team on the ice back in November, and to be where they're at today - it's just something they bought into, and never complained of at all."
Fellow Cloquet team members include Morgan Carlson, Erica Eller, Latisha Hachey, Kenzie Weber and Kelly Lorenz.
Bartholdi said Lexi Cooke, who suffered a concussion and missed districts, is expected to return to regionals March 1-3 in Benson, Minn. More water breaks will be available then.
By then, they'll be better known as the 'Tremendous Ten.'
Editor's Note: Find a photo of the Tremendous Ten on page B3 of this week's paper and more photos by local photographer Shelley Robideaux attached to this story online at www.pinejournal.com.