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Hockey Day Minnesota comes calling for Cloquet-Esko-Carlton

High winds and cold temperatures made for extreme conditions during Hockey Day Minnesota events on Pokegama Lake in Grand Rapids in this Jan. 19, 2013, file photo. (2013 file, Clint Austin / News Tribune)

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey coach Dave Esse was as surprised as anyone to learn his team had been selected to participate in the 2014 rendition of Hockey Day Minnesota.

Esse found out Wednesday when the Minnesota Wild and Fox Sports North unveiled the schedule for the Jan. 18 "State of Hockey" celebration. The Lumberjacks will meet Rochester Lourdes in a 10:15 a.m. game from Elk River's historic Handke Pit, an outdoor bowl-shaped venue.

"Any kid wants to be on TV," Esse said. "It should be fun. I'm excited and I guarantee you the kids will be excited."

Other prep games include the Elk River boys vs. Stillwater and the Elk River girls vs. Anoka. Collegiately, Minnesota hosts Ohio State at 5 p.m., while the NHL's Wild host the Dallas Stars at 8 p.m. All games will be shown on FSN.

Cloquet never has been a part of Hockey Day Minnesota.

"It's a grass-roots thing where we're back to playing outdoors, and that's cool," Esse said. "It's fun for everybody. It's a full day of hockey, and it's just a really neat event."

This will be the hockey bonanza's eighth consecutive year. Grand Rapids hosted it last January, and Hermantown did the same in 2010.

No more football conferences?

In an August proposal to the Minnesota State High School League's board of directors, football conferences would disappear in 2015 to help alleviate scheduling headaches.

Instead, schools would be placed in geographic groups of 16, with consideration given to enrollment size and rivalries. They then would pick opponents from within their respective group to craft a schedule.

The idea could be on the board's agenda at its January meeting.

The MSHSL's Kevin Merkle told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that kinks need to be worked out for the plan to become viable.

"There are still details to be worked out," Merkle said. "Depending on how the groupings are set up, you can certainly still crown a champion. Those are things that we will discuss with our member schools. Right now, we will continue the process of seeing if this group concept is the way to go. Is it a better option than what schools already have? Right now, we aren't totally sure. No matter what we do, there will be winners and losers."

Football conferences seem to be in a perpetual state of flux. The result is constant shuffling, with some teams left on the outside looking in, which handicaps those programs' ability to craft quality schedules.

Boys, girls basketball tournaments flip-flop

Each year, the state tournament schedule for winter sports goes thusly: girls hockey, wrestling, boys hockey, girls basketball, boys basketball.

This season, however, girls basketball and boys basketball will flip-flop. The boys tournament is scheduled for March 12-15 at Target Center and Williams Arena, while the girls tournament is slated for March 18-22, primarily at Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena.

The scheduling hiccup stems from the upstart National Collegiate Hockey Conference's postseason tournament, which will be held at Target Center each March through at least 2018 -- the league signed a five-year contract with the venue. This year, the NCHC semifinals and finals are March 21-22.

Consequently, only six girls games will be played at Target Center, all on Tuesday, March 18. Those include four Class AAAA quarterfinals and two Class AAA quarterfinals.

In 2017, the order reverts back to normal, with the girls tournament preceding the boys.


International Falls is celebrating 100 years of prep football this season. ... It took the Two Harbors girls soccer team three games to surpass its win total from 2012. The Agates, who went 1-16 a year ago, beat Heritage Christian Academy in their opener and Grand Rapids in their third game. They are 2-3 heading into today's match at Eveleth-Gilbert Area. ... Ashland's boys soccer team has outscored its opponents by a combined 23-1 en route to a 7-0 start. ... Mountain Iron-Buhl's Allie Knuti had 22 kills and four blocks in the Rangers' five-game volleyball win over Cromwell on Tuesday. Volleyball, though, may not be Knuti's best sport as the senior is expected to sign a national letter of intent in November to play college basketball at Bemidji State. Knuti made an oral commitment to Bemidji last spring.

High school hockey

Saturday, Jan. 18

At Handke Pit, Elk River

  • Cloquet-Esko-Carlton vs. Rochester Lourdes (boys), 10:15 a.m.
  • Elk River vs. Stillwater (boys), 1 p.m.
  • Elk River vs. Anoka (girls), 4 p.m. (tape delay)

    College hockey

  • Ohio State at Minnesota, 5 p.m.


  • Dallas Stars at Wild, 8 p.m.

  • randomness