No joy after quadruple OT
The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton and Moose Lake Area girls' hockey teams both finished their seasons with the same record — 9-16-1 — and both programs are poised for growth.
The Lumberjacks saw their season end with a heartbreaking 1-0 quadruple-overtime loss to Hibbing-Chisholm Thursday night in Cloquet, while the Rebels fell 3-1 in their quarterfinal game at International Falls.
"I can speak for everyone, I think," CEC coach Courtney Olin said. "I've never seen an atmosphere like we had at our game. It was one of the best I've ever seen — but it was a very disappointing loss for us."
Each team had 37 shots on goal for the contest, but no one dented the twine until Allie Bussie scored at the nine-minute mark of the fourth overtime — 93 minutes unto the game.
"I can truly say I think every one of our girls did the best they could," Olin said. "We had 100 percent effort and Elise Lund kept us in the game in goal."
Meanwhile, Joe Mohelsky's Rebels nabbed a 1-1 tie at the first intermission against the Broncos last Thursday night when Jamie Benzie scored with 2:32 left in the first period. It capped a strong first session for the Rebels, who outshot International Falls 10-7.
In the second, the Broncos rode two power plays to a 19-2 shots advantage. Amber Tilander and Emma Erickson scored for the home team, which led 3-1 after two periods and made it stick in the third.
"I thought we had the momentum after the first period," Mohelsky said. "But we took back-to-back penalties and we tried to come back in the third period. We just couldn't."
And so, both Carlton County teams exited the playoffs at the first hurdle.
"We have no reason to hang our head," Olin said. "We couldn't have asked for more or been more proud. All season long our Achilles heel was not capitalizing on scoring chances, and Hibbing only had to do it once. They did."
The Rebels had the same problem.
"We were looking for players to step up and share the scoring load all season," Mohelsky said. "But I think we grew tremendously. These players had a great attitude, learned about themselves and what they are capable of doing. We'd have liked a few more wins, but our kids kept getting up when they got knocked down."
So growth is the watchword for the future.
"If you compare our first game to the last game, it was significant," Olin said. "Coming into the year and where we ended the year, we're excited."
The Lumberjacks also had only one senior. "We lose a great senior and leader in Ally Martin but 19 of the 20 players on the varsity roster are back next season," Olin said. "That's great for the program."
Mohelsky loses five seniors. Forwards Ashley Golly and Lauren Pederson join defenseman Josie Benzie, goaltender Maddie Gamst and Mohelsky's daughter, Ruby, as graduating players.
"Maddie has been amazing," Mohelsky said. "She's started for us for four years and has been wonderful for us. We lose some great leaders and that means our numbers might be a little thin next year but we will return experience."
And Mohelsky got the chance to coach his daughter in her senior season.
"That's special, from father to daughter," he said, "but I would like to think Ruby learned some life lessons not just father to daughter but also coach to player."
And now both teams head into the off-season looking to grow.
"It might be a bit of a building year," Mohelsky said. "We lose five seniors and get only one player up from the youth team, but we have a good core of kids. We have three solid defenders and our leading scorer (Jamie Benzie) is back as a junior. We'll be OK."
Meanwhile, CEC is taking advantage of the MSHSL rule that allows for two weeks of captains' practices after the season ends to get ready for next year.
"The great thing as a coach is that the captains are having practices and everyone's showing up," Olin said. "We had a team meeting the day after the Hibbing game and it almost felt like a funeral because the kids took it pretty hard. But they are turning that sadness into time and effort to get ready for next season. The message the players are giving is that they care."