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CEC falls 6-2 to Pioneers

Last year, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls hockey team rolled over Hill-Murray 3-1 in Maplewood, Minn. However, Saturday night at the CARC, the Lumberjacks had a little tougher time containing the No. 4-ranked Pioneers' high-powered offense.

Last year, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls hockey team rolled over Hill-Murray 3-1 in Maplewood, Minn. However, Saturday night at the CARC, the Lumberjacks had a little tougher time containing the No. 4-ranked Pioneers' high-powered offense.

Within the first two minutes of dropping the puck, CEC (6-6 overall; 0-2 Lake Superior Conference) found themselves trailing Hill-Murray 2-0, as the Pioneers buried a pair of goals from the point before some fans even started eating their popcorn.

It didn't get any easier for the Lumberjacks, as they were outshot an eye-popping 35-11 throughout the game, while a solid Hill-Murray (8-2; 4-0 Classic Suburban Conference) club left the Northland with a 6-2 victory.

"That was an excellent team we played out there tonight," said CEC head coach Dick Bartholdi. "The Pioneers definitely know what they are doing when they take the ice."

After the two quick goals by defensemen Casey Knajdek and Catie Dolan, the Pioneers - who have won six of their last seven contests - and CEC went back-and-forth for the last 15-minutes of the period, as the Lumberjacks found themselves trailing by two at the intermission.

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The second period saw the Pioneers jump out quick again when freshman forward Hannah Brandt blew one past junior CEC goaltender Sarah Gustafson just 28 seconds into the period.

However, the Lumberjacks battled back just three minutes later, when sophomore forward Callie Halvorsen netted a goal off of a nice pass out in front of the cage by senior captain Sadie Lundquist.

Roughly midway through the second, Hill-Murray struck again, as freshman defenseman Sarah Bruchu banged one past Gustafson during a pile-up at the net.

Four minutes later, Brandt scored her second goal of the night for the Pioneers, while shortly after that, Knajdek sniped her second from the point, as Brandt recorded her game-leading fifth point of the contest, giving Hill-Murray 6-1 edge at the second intermission.

The final period of action was scoreless until the final seconds, when Lundquist slid the puck past Pioneer sophomore goalie Ali McKeever, after a nice assist by Halvorsen.

When the final horn blew, Lundquist and Halvorsen tallied all of the CEC's four total points, while Gustafson, though giving up six goals, played well between the pipes, stopping 29 pucks.

Though the Lumberjacks lost, they kept their heads held high, because they understand they have one of the toughest schedules in the state. Of their 24 scheduled games, 14 are against teams ranked within the top 15, such as Hill-Murray.

"We worked hard all the way through the game," said Lundquist about the team's performance against the fast-paced Pioneers. "Playing a solid team like Hill-Murray is a good learning experience for us."

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Bartholdi feels the same.

"We showed a lot of character as the game went on," said Bartholdi. "We have to keep learning, because we want to be right with them at the end of the year."

CEC took part in the Andover Holiday Classic Tournament this week (Dec. 29-31) before they hit the road Jan. 6 and travel to Edina, Minn., to collide with the No. 6-ranked Hornets.

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