Cloquet-Esko-Carlton senior Tenley Stewart had just wrapped up her second season of varsity tennis earlier this month before immediately switching gears to focus on her sport of choice on the ice. The captain defenseman is far from alone in this distinction, however.
Stewart is one of the team’s eight seniors who were all part of the Lumberjacks tennis team earlier this fall, and are now making a substantial impact on the hockey team.
Stewart netted the Lumberjacks' first goal during the second period of Tuesday, Nov. 23, Section 7A matchup against Moose Lake Area. Teammate Marina Dostal, a University of Wisconsin-Superior tennis commit, tipped in the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over the Rebels.
Since joining the tennis team, Stewart says she’s noticed an improvement in her ability to get sticks on pucks to create deflections and tips.
“Honestly, since I started playing tennis, I think tipping pucks out of the air has come easier to me. So, maybe just in more subtle ways like that (it’s been beneficial), but it definitely does make a difference,” Stewart said.
CEC coach Courtney Olin said that the advantages of playing multiple sports presents itself in a variety of ways.
“I just think it makes them more versatile and more competitive overall and more well-rounded,” Olin said. “I think athletes who have played in bigger games, whether it’s in soccer, volleyball or softball, maybe understand how to feel that pressure in a third period game and handle that a little bit better than someone who hasn’t had the experience.”
The transition hasn’t come without its challenges, though, as Stewart explained that the transition can be difficult given the differing physical demands from one sport to the other.
“Tennis is obviously very different fitness-level wise. The only way to get into hockey shape is to play hockey, in my opinion,” Stewart said. “So, obviously, that’s kind of a hard thing to do, But I was playing fall hockey in a fall league, the Elite League, so that really helped me get into shape for this season”
The Rebels, known for their hard work and tenacity, put that endurance level to the test during Tuesday’s tilt that remained scoreless into the second period after a penalty-riddled opening frame. Stewart broke the scoreless deadlock at the 13:29 mark of the second period with a goal off a rebound from a hard shot by senior defenseman Bella Harriman, a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point track and field commit.
During the first intermission, Stewart, who has bounced around the lineup from her natural position of defenseman to forward, said the team had discussed the need to have sticks ready for loose pucks around the net.
“I just saw that the D (defenseman) was shooting and I tried to just get in front of the net for the rebound,” Stewart said. “In between periods, we were talking a lot about how we didn’t have our sticks down ready to go when the puck bounces out, and the puck bounced out to me. So, I just made sure to get it in the back of the net.”
The goal for Stewart was her first of the season and 11th of her career. Harriman and freshman Emma Parks picked up their first points of the season with the assists.
After feeling like the team had been outworked for the majority of the first period, Olin said she was pleased with the response of her club during the second.
“We came out a little bit flat, and then came back in the second period and really, really worked hard,” Olin said. “If you look at a team like Moose Lake, they work extremely hard, and I did not think we matched their tempo in the first. So, I was really proud of the effort coming back and bouncing back and continuing to work.”
The Lumberjacks did not let up to start the final frame and were rewarded for their grit with a second goal 49 seconds into the period. CEC leading goal-scorer Dostal managed to redirect a shot from the point by Frankie Halverson for her fourth tally of the season to make it 2-0.
Staring down a two-goal deficit, the Rebels stuck to their game and eventually took advantage of their third power play opportunity with a goal by Gracie Hartl. Mackenzie Hoffman was credited with the primary assist while Julia Jusczak earned the secondary.
MLA had a golden opportunity to even the score late in the third period with another power play opportunity, only to have their shots on net steered aside by CEC goaltender Araya Kiminski, who finished the game with 13 saves on 14 shots. On the other end of the ice, Mallory Hartl stopped 22 of 24 shots faced.
Both coaches came away pleased with the performances of their goaltenders. Rebels coach Reilly Fawcett said that Hartl had battled through back pain earlier in the day to make the start in net.
“She’s an outstanding player. She’s young. She's only in ninth grade. She was actually fighting through a lot of back pain today, and we didn’t know if she was going to even play today,” Fawcett said. “We don’t have a backup goalie that’s experienced, so we really thanked her for pushing through her pain and she did an awesome job for us today”
For Olin, the steadiness of Kiminski has come to be expected.
“She’s just always a very steady, solid goaltender in net, so I thought she did a really nice job taking away any of the potential chances that maybe would’ve gone in against a goalie with less experience,” Olin said. “So, we feel really confident with her back in net. She’s just very reliable for us.”
With the win, CEC improves to 2-2 for the season, while MLA falls to 3-1. Both teams will be back on the ice on Tuesday, Nov. 30, with the Lumberjacks taking on Grand Rapids-Greenway on the road, and the Rebels hosting Rock Ridge.
Moose Lake Area 0-0-1—1
First period — None.
Second period — 1. CEC, Tenley Stewart (Bella Harriman, Emma Parks), 13:29.
Third period — 2. CEC, Marina Dostal (Frankie Halverson), 0:49. 1. MLA, Gracie Hartl (PP) (Mackenzie Hoffman, Julia Jusczak), 6:30.
Saves — Araya Kiminski, CEC, 13; Mallory Hartl, MLA, 22.