When talking hockey with Andy Acers, it doesn't take the Cloquet senior long to recall his days growing up playing at the Pine Valley Ice Arena.
That it shouldn't, as Pine Valley - better known as "The Barn" - has been home to some of the finest players, teams and moments involving Cloquet hockey.
"It's pretty special," said Acers of the venue, built in the late 1960s by community volunteers. "That place holds some youth memories."
Acers and Co. added to that history earlier this week, as Cloquet-Esko-Carlton cruised past Virginia-Mountain Iron-Buhl 7-0 before a bundled-up crowd at the Barn on Tuesday night, Jan. 22.
Cloquet sophomore Christian Galatz scored four goals, senior Kade Bender added two and classmate Landon Langenbrunner scored one in aiding junior goaltender Owen Carlson's six-save shutout.
"We played some good hockey tonight," first-year CEC coach Shea Walters said. "We're getting better every day."
The Barn was once home to some of the most exhilarating games and skilled of players of its era. The likes of future NHL stars Corey Millen, Derek Plante and Jamie Langenbrunner all whizzed around the Barn before the Cloquet Area Recreation Center - now named Northwoods Arena - was built in 1997.
So for Landon Langenbrunner - Jamie's son - to enjoy the same cozy confines as his professional-playing pops for a night, the moment was well-appreciated.
"A lot of our parents played in there," Landon said. "It's special, nostalgic; it's where we all started."
Walters, wearing an extra layer of clothing to match the arena's often frigid temp, agreed the Barn gave his team some extra excitement, noting his Lumberjacks came ready and left at .500.
"It's taken us a while, but we've climbed back," said Walters of his now 9-9 team, after beginning 0-5 thanks to a grueling Cities-based start to the schedule.
Winners of three straight, including five of their past six, CEC is playing nothing short of confident, as this group of Lumberjacks is looking to be the first purple-and-gold squad to skate to the state tournament since 2008.
The Lumberjacks will host Class A's No. 1 Hermantown on Jan. 31, as well as Class AA's No. 5 Duluth East come Feb. 4.
"There's a winning mindset here," Langenbrunner said, "and we're starting to find it."
Duluth Denfeld 2-1-2-5
First period - 1. DD, Jacob Eskola (Darren Shykes, Payton Budisalovich), 7:57 (pp); 2. DD, Griffin Lehet (Shykes, Eskola), 16:46 (sh).
Second period - 3. CEC, Mason Langenbrunner (Sam Olson), 0:39 (pp); 4. CEC, Jon Baker (Kade Bender, Gavin Rasmussen), 0:53; 5. CEC, Aaron Moore (Cade Anderson), 5:49 (pp); 6. CEC, Bender (Rasmussen), 6:03; 7. CEC, Landon Langenbrunner (M. Langenbrunner, Moore), 8:37; 8. L. Langenbrunner (Christian Galatz, Drake Nordin), 10:54; 9. DD, Kade Shea (Budisalovich, Eskola), 15:54 (pp).
Third period - 10. DD, Lehet (Shea, Zach DeCaro), 1:24 (pp); 11. DD, Lehet (Budisalovich, Eskola), 4:57 (pp); 12. CEC, Galatz (Moore, L. Langenbrunner), 10:00; 13. CEC, Cole Ketola, 15:52 (pp).
Saves - Owen Carlson, CEC, 14; Shawn Easty, DD, 28.
First period - 1. CEC, Landon Langenbrunner (Christian Galatz), 3:20; 2. CEC, Kade Bender (Mason Langenbrunner, Cade Anderson), 6:19; 3. CEC, Galatz (L. Langenbrunner, Cole Ketola), 16:53.
Second period - 4. CEC, Galatz (M. Langenbrunner, Sam Olson), 11:15 (pp).
Third period - 5. CEC, Bender (Jon Baker, Nick Baker), 1:35; 6. CEC, Galatz (M. Langenbrunner), 3:17; 7. CEC, Galatz (Aaron Moore), 3:32.
Saves - Owen Carlson, CEC, 6; Camden Keeibich, VMIB, 29.