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Grand Rapids defeats 'Jacks

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. - If CEC boys hockey coach Dave Esse were to show his players a movie, he might want to pick "Nine To Five." Not so much for the action, but for the allegory. After Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to Grand Rapids at the IRA Civic Cen...

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Cloquet-Esko-Carlton senior forward Colton Roy (15) focuses on the puck while getting some powerful pressure from senior Jake McConkey (16) of Hibbing-Chisholm in Friday's 1-0 loss to Bluejackets. Jacob Suihkinen of the Hibbing-Chisholm scored at 13:39 of the third period to upset the Lumberjacks. CEC also fell 4-1 to Grand Rapids Tuesday night, with their lone goal from Roy. CEC's season record stands at 4-12-1. [Jamie Lund / Pine Journal]

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. - If CEC boys hockey coach Dave Esse were to show his players a movie, he might want to pick "Nine To Five."

Not so much for the action, but for the allegory. After Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to Grand Rapids at the IRA Civic Center, Esse was left to remark on the ongoing need for his players to put in a full day at the office.

"Once again, we fell behind and made the same mistakes we've been making," he said. "You can't get behind against the good teams and we can't afford to get behind anyone due to the lack of scoring we're experiencing."

Colton Roy scored the only goal for the 'Jacks, who found that mental mistakes will kill against the top teams.

"If you aren't a highly skilled team, you have to play positionally and with discipline," Esse said. "We lost two power plays in that game because we took penalties when we were on the power play. Once it happened at 2-1 and again at 3-1 when we were all over them. They scored next and it was 'game over.'"

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There were bright spots, but unfortunately they were few and far between.

"We made some changes in the second period we played about as well as we can play," Esse said. "We took the body and when you do that, good things happen. In the third period, though, we regressed and didn't take the man. They took away our time and space, and in a small rink that isn't good."

With losses mounting, Esse is searching for answers.

"We have very good kids on this team," he said. "But the competition at this level is great. Sometimes we play like we're satisfied, just satisfied with being on the team. With our schedule, you can't do that. Once again, we worked hard - at times. But we didn't do it for 51 minutes."

So, Esse has talked with his players about the importance of the good old-fashioned Cloquet work ethic.

"When you go to work, when you work nine to five, what do you do to make the company better?" he asked. "What do you do to help the team succeed? We're trying to teach life lessons here and one of those lessons is that you have to show up for work every day and battle all of the time. Playing 51 minutes of hockey is the 'nine-to-five' for these kids. When we don't do it, we don't win."

It would be easy for Esse to fall back on the 'we don't get a bounce' theory, but the coach notes that lucky bounces have to be made.

"We could have won four or five more games this season by doing a small thing well, a thing that makes a 'bounce,'" he said. "At our level, the longer we let a team stay in the game, the more likely we are to get beat. If you don't work hard and you don't play positional hockey, your weaknesses will get exposed."

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The teaching process has been a long and difficult one for the coaches.

"There are so many areas of a game that matter, from draws, to blocking shots to positioning to shooting," he said. "In all my years of coaching, I've never had to work on so many facets of the game. And in our games, we do one thing well for a period and then, unfortunately, we seem to shift to something else in the next period."

Esse doesn't fall back on the youth of his players, either.

"We are young, yes, but other schools have good young players too," he said. "We have to be able to play better, especially without the puck, and we have to use hockey sense to put ourselves in positions where we minimize our mistakes."

Notes: The annual boys hockey fundraiser will take place from 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, at the Cloquet High School cafeteria. Admission is $8 for all the spaghetti you can eat. Tickets will be sold at the door.

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