Prep boys hockey: CEC snaps losing skid with win over Brainerd

After an extended road trip, the Lumberjacks made the most of their return to Northwoods Credit Union Arena with a 3-2 win over Brainerd.

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton goaltender Kyle Abrahamson (31) stops a shot on goal against Brainerd at Northwoods Credit Union Arena on Thursday Jan., 6, 2022, in Cloquet. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

CLOQUET — A sprawling save on a 2-on-0 breakaway by goaltender Kyle Abrahamson late in a Thursday, Jan. 6, meeting with Brainerd helped seal a 3-2 win for the Lumberjacks on their home ice at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.

The victory snaps a three-game losing streak suffered at the hands of some of the top teams in the state, including the likes of No. 4 Hill Murray and No. 13 Centennial. The Lumberjacks had gone winless over their past six contests overall.

“It felt great to come out with a win. Those three games down in the cities I think helped prepare us,” Abrahamson said. “We came back battle-tested (after) playing some of the top teams in the state.”

A better start for the home team could not be scripted as Patrick Dunaiski gave the Lumberjacks a quick 1-0 lead just 19 seconds into the game with assists credited to Joey Antonutti and Karson Young.

CEC coach Shea Walters was thrilled with the team’s pace and energy in the opening minutes of play.


“We started out really well.” Walters said. “We came out of the gates like how we want to, and then they kind of had a little bit of a response and it was kind of a back and forth game. Obviously we were down 2-1 going into that third period and finished strong. We need to have more of that. Overall, I’m pleased.”
The quick tally was followed up by nearly another goal by the same forward line on their next shift, but the puck skittered wide of the net off a shot by Antonutti, and play resumed with the score remaining 1-0.

“It’s funny because if you go up 2-0 in that situation, it’s a completely different game,” Walters said.

Wyatt Mrozik (13) of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton shoots the puck against Brainerd at Northwoods Credit Union Arena on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Cloquet. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The Warriors had been on their heels for much of the opening frame, but slowly shifted the play in their favor late after a power play opportunity yielded multiple scoring chances.

Back at even strength, Brainerd broke through at the 12:35 mark with a goal deflected off the stick of Kaleb Estrada to make it 1-1 into the first intermission.

The momentum carried over into the second period as the visitors scored the lone goal on a wrist shot from the left face off circle by Max Roby. The 2-1 lead for the Warriors stood until the midway point of the final frame, when Patrick Dunaiski added his second marker and team-leading eighth of the season to even the score.

Less than two minutes after the game-tying goal, Wyatt Mrozik added the decisive tally on an odd-man rush with Karson Young, who delivered a beautiful saucer pass over the stick of the defender and on to the tape of Mrozik, to make it 3-2.

The Lumberjacks appeared to have the game locked up late when the Warriors took a penalty with a minute and a half left to play. Instead, with the puck in CEC’s zone and the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, Brainerd nearly found the equalizer after a turnover provided them with a 2-on-0 opportunity that was inevitably thwarted by Abrahamson.

Patrick Dunaiski (10) of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton controls the puck against Ryan Kennedy (15) of Brainerd at Northwoods Credit Union Arena on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Cloquet. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“What I do before the games, I visualize pretty much every play that I can think of that’ll happen in a game situation and I think that’s what helped me,” Abrahamson said. “Either the guy was going to shoot it or he was going to pass it over. I had the guy in the corner of my right eye and I saw him looking to take that opportunity to take the pass, and I knew where he was and I pushed over there and I got the save and got my team the win.”


The stop was a game-saver, according to Walters.

“I mean it’s a 2-on-0 coming right down the pike, and for him to come across and save, I mean it changed everything. It kept us in the win column,” Walters said.

CEC (4-8-1) will be back on its home ice today when the team takes on Stillwater at 7:30 p.m.

Brainerd 1-1-0—2

CEC 1-0-2—3

First period — 1. CEC, Patrick Dunaiski (Joey Antonutti, Karson Young), 0:19. Brainerd, Kaleb Estrada (Cayden Kleffman), 12:35.

Second period — 2. Brainerd, Max Roby (Harrison Seymour), 14:24.

Third period — 2. CEC, Dunaiski (Antonutti, Lucas Rauner), 8:19; 3. Wyatt Mrozik (Young).

Saves — Jed Klang, B, 37; Abrahamson, CEC, 18.

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton goaltender Kyle Abrahamson (31) uses a skate to make a save against Brainerd at Northwoods Credit Union Arena on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Cloquet.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Dayne Painovich of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton (4) controls the puck near John Finnegan (8) of Brainerd at Northwoods Credit Union Arena on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Cloquet.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Related Topics: HOCKEY
Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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