CLOQUET — As a once prolific prep player and then centerman at Bemidji State, Shea Walters knows what it’s like to score a hockey goal or two.
Now the coach at Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, Walters’ top line is taking notes.
Walters watched as the Lumberjacks’ first-liners lit the lamp four times in the opening period to help CEC skate past Marshall School 8-0 on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at Northwoods Arena in Cloquet.
The quartet of goals was nothing new for Cloquet’s Christian Galatz, Cole Ketola and Esko’s Aaron Moore, as the trio of playmakers are seemingly always on the same page with one another. While also connecting on five assists together Tuesday, Galatz got the scoring started, followed by a pair of goals by Moore and then Ketola to close the first 17 minutes.
“We know we can play with anyone,” said the senior Moore. “Every time we step on the ice, we think we’re the best line out there.”
Rightfully so. On Moore’s second strike against the Hilltoppers, all three had a hand in the play, as both the junior Galatz and senior Ketola carded assists. It was just a glimpse of what the three have been doing all season, as in just 14 games, Galatz (19 goals-14 assists—33 points) is among the top-10 scorers in Class AA, while Moore (7-16—23) and Ketola (8-6—14) can also pump in the puck.
“They’re a quality line,” Marshall coach Mark Vichorek said. "As good as any in the state.”
That’s high praise coming from Vichorek, who played as a defenseman for the NHL’s Hartford Whalers in 1986-87, has two children who played collegiately and has seen plenty of hockey.
Vichorek, whose father began the Moose Lake Area program for which Vichorek grew up playing for, has coached the sport at many levels over the years, yet just returned to the high school sidelines this winter with the Hilltoppers (2-11). Still living in Moose Lake, Vichorek travels up to 100 miles a day to coach at Marshall. His daughter, Montana, is also as coach in Hutchinson, Minn., and son, Taylor, a referee in the area.
“Hockey is in the blood,” Vichorek said. “The whole family has been involved in this a long time.”
What didn’t take a long time Tuesday was the Lumberjacks lighting up the scoreboard. Just five minutes in, Galatz ripped across the crease to score his team-high 19th goal, while the do-it-all forward then assisted on both of Moore’s tallies, Ketola’s, and later again in the third period on the first of two goals for junior Cade Anderson.
Galatz’s five points came in a variety of ways — nothing new to see for his coaches and teammates.
“Once Christian touches the puck, he’s a magician,” Moore said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
“He’s the total package,” Vichorek said of Galatz. “He makes that line go.”
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound left winger is quick, creative and always on the attack. Asked of his mindset on the ice and the unselfish Galatz was quick to answer.
“Every single time I get the puck, I’m always trying to get it to the net or find somebody open in front of the net,” Galatz said.
“When he’s playing his best, he’s on that edge,” Walters said. “He’s gritty, progressing and getting better. He’s always all over the stat sheet. I’m glad he’s on our team, that’s for sure.”
That team is playing well, as the Lumberjacks (8-5-1) have won three of their last four, including a recent 3-2 overtime win over Holy Angels in game they trailed 2-0. That effort has pleased Walters, who likes where his relentless squad is at amidst the dog days of January. CEC has also beaten the likes much-larger foes in Bloomington Jefferson, Centennial and their biggest rivals, Duluth East.
That schedule doesn’t get any easier with a trip to Eden Prairie on Friday, Jan. 10. Former CEC player Mason Langenbrunner has three goals and seven assists for the Class AA second-ranked Eagles. Class A top-rated Hermantown also waits on Jan. 30 and a rematch at East on Feb. 3.
Still, the heavy load of opponents doesn’t faze Walters’ Lumberjacks and his starting line of point manufacturers.
“They get up the sheet pretty well,” he said. “They have good chemistry and are always looking for each other. It’s fun to see them when they’re moving the puck.”
Duluth Marshall 0-0-0—0