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Still hungry for hockey action? Check out U-12 state tourney at CARC

Hockey fans still have another shot at watching some great hockey this coming weekend. The Minnesota State Girls U-12 Hockey Tournament will be held at the Cloquet Area Recreation Center starting Friday at noon. One of the eight teams, and one of...

Hockey fans still have another shot at watching some great hockey this coming weekend. The Minnesota State Girls U-12 Hockey Tournament will be held at the Cloquet Area Recreation Center starting Friday at noon. One of the eight teams, and one of the pre-tournament favorites, will be the undefeated Cloquet squad.

"It's been a great year so far," said Cloquet coach Joel "Chunky" Gustafson. "It would be a great topper to the season if the girls can win at home."

Cloquet comes into the tournament with a 32-0-3 record and some unbelievable gaudy statistics. Among those statistics? The Cloquet girls have outscored their opponents 219 to 30 on the season, they have outshot their opponents 1,130 to 289 on the season, their power play is clicking at 34 percent and they kill off penalties at a 94 percent ratio. With those kinds of numbers this group will be hard to beat.

Up front Cloquet has a plethora of fire power from the likes of Emily Gustafson, Dalyce Gustafson and Kelli Carlson. Emily Gustafson leads the team in points with 76, Dalyce is second with 67 and Carlson is third in scoring with 64 points.

"We have two lines and they both score a lot for us," mentioned Gustafson. "We have great team speed and I haven't seen a team as fast as us this season."

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Dalyce Gustafson is joined on her line by Caitlin Lilly and Kortni Korkela. Gustafson is perhaps the fastest player on the team and according to coach Gustafson she is also the player Cloquet relies on to dog the best player on the opposition team if it is needed. Both Lilly and Korkela are fast players with great hands, who can handle the puck and create confusion on the forecheck.

Emily Gustafson, one of the smallest players on the team, is also a catalyst in the corners with an innate ability to get the puck to her linemates. Joining Gustafson on her line are Kelli Carlson and Karlee Thompson.

"Kelli is one of the fastest players on our team along with Dalyce," stated coach Gustafson. "Carlson and Emily are both very tenacious and Carlson just never gives up. Karlee is a very solid player who can go get the puck and she has a very good shot."

Defensively Cloquet plays four players on the blue line with Kristi Konietzko and Kalie Shevich joining Megan Nelson and Carly Morada.

"Shevich can go end to end and when she does she always finishes with a goal," explained Gustafson. "Konietzko is very solid and a first year player with us. Nelson has played three to four years and has a great shot. Nelson has a scored a lot of goals from the point for us. Morada just moved in this year from Red Wing and she is our player who is not afraid to work in tight quarters."

Back in goal Cloquet features Katie Beckman who has perhaps the most impressive statistics. How does a 0.87 goals-against average sound? Or even better, a 91 percent saves percentage? That means Beckman, and her team, are giving up less than a goal a game on the season.

"Our team does a nice job of not allowing shots, but when we do give them up Katie has been there for us," said Gustafson. "Our key so far is that as a team the girls forecheck so hard that it is hard for the other teams to keep any pressure on us."

Cloquet has won all five regular season tournaments they played in and then two weeks ago they won the regional tournament by taking wins of 4-0 over Hibbing, 7-0 over Grand Rapids, 4-3 over International Falls and 5-0 over Silver Bay in the championship.

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"We've got 10 shutouts in the last 11 games," mentioned Gustafson. "Once we played the first game of the season we knew we had something pretty special. These girls are something special, they work hard, they pass the puck, they forecheck like crazy and they don't quit."

Cloquet will be joined in the state tournament by Duluth, Osseo/Maple Grove, Albert Lea, Princeton, Chisago Lakes, Mahtomedi and Willmar. The tournament will open at noon on Friday with Cloquet playing Albert Lea.

Pine Journal sports reporter Kerry Rodd can be contacted at: kdrodd@aol.com .

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