It's playoff time for 'Jacks, Rebels
As expected, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls hockey team earned the sixth seed in the coming Section 7AA tournament, and will travel to Grand Rapids-Greenway this Thursday night.
The ’Jacks thought their regular season was over last week after their last two scheduled games were postponed by cold, but on Tuesday night the scheduled matchup with Hibbing-Chisholm was played at Northwoods Credit Union Arena and the scheduled Senior Night was held.
The game was rescheduled after last week’s edition of the Pine Journal went to press.
The ’Jacks avenged an earlier defeat this season by jumping out to a 3-0 first-period lead and defeating the Bluejackets 5-1.
Rachael Macaulay, Kaitlyn Miller and Kailey Buhr staked CEC to a 3-0 lead early on before CJ Stoyanoff and Mikayla Baker scored in the third period. Stacy Nelson stopped 27 of 28 shots in goal for the win.
The last game of the season gave CEC a final record of 7-14-2, but by the end of last night’s game the playoff seed had already been assured.
“That doesn’t surprise us,” Coach Lance Horvat said of his team’s seed. “That is where we thought we’d be placed. Three of the coaches at the seeding meeting on Monday night compared notes and we were spot on with each other.”
GRG has beaten the ’Jacks twice this season, 4-3 in Cloquet on Nov. 26 and 3-0 in Grand Rapids on Jan. 16.
“They’re a good team,” Horvat said. “We outshot them up there and possessed the puck more but we couldn’t get the goal that has eluded us all season. The girls are ready and we hope the third time is a charm.”
Horvat noted the long rivalry between the schools.
“We have a good rivalry going back to Bart [longtime coach Dick Bartholdi] and Mike Bushey,” Horvat said. “I talked with [GRG Coach] Brad Hyduke after the seed meeting and he just smiled and said, ‘There’s no secrets between us. You know us and we know you.’”
Nelson is expected to carry the load in goal during the playoffs, having recovered from an injury suffered late in the regular season.
“She will be the one for us,” Horvat said.
As for the key to playoff success, Horvat says it’s simple.
“We need to avoid mistakes and find a way to score goals,” he said. “We did a better job of that at the end of the season but what we really need is a couple of bounces for our confidence. Maybe we just need a garbage goal or a play where we go to the net and get a deflection. We have to have the confidence that we can pick a corner when we shoot and knock in a rebound if we don’t score. If we get a goal like that early against Rapids, we might just be OK.”
Rebels hockey heads into the playoffs with winning ways
Meanwhile, the Moose Lake-Willow River girls are quietly putting together an excellent season.
Despite a 15-8-2 record that saw them earn the 16th seed in the entire state in the computerized QRF rankings, the Rebels only earned the fourth seed in the Section 7A tournament which begins Thursday night.
That puts the Rebels at home against fifth-seed Eveleth-Gilbert, with a matchup against top seed Proctor-Hermantown ahead next Tuesday with a win.
Their QRF ranking is second in Section 7A, behind only Proctor/Hermantown, with Hibbing-Chisholm, International Falls, Eveleth-Gilbert and Silver Bay bringing up the rest of the field. Current QRF ratings would have placed the Rebels second in the section and gave them a first-round playoff bye.
Jesssica Bird (23/21/44) and Andrea Youngberg (14/20/34) lead the team in scoring.
Cassie White (12-8-2, 2.72, .868 save percentage, two shutouts) has carried most of the load in goal.