Section 7AA hockey: Coon Rapids uses three-goal third period to edge CEC

The Lumberjacks finish their season with an overall record of 16-9-1.

High school hockey
Coon Rapids goaltender Will Wagner makes a save on Cloquet-Esko-Carlton forward Joey Antonutti during a Section 7AA quarterfinal game, Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

CLOQUET — No. 4 seed Cloquet-Esko-Carlton saw its season come to a disappointing end at the hands of No. 5 seed Coon Rapids in the quarterfinal round of the Section 7AA tournament, Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.

The Cardinals scored three unanswered goals in the final period, including an empty netter, to advance to the semifinals, Saturday, Feb. 25, at Amsoil Arena, where they’ll take on top seed Duluth East.

After battling to a 5-4 victory in their previous meeting in January, Coon Rapids head coach Aaron Frach said his team was prepared for the physicality that comes with facing the Lumberjacks.

“We knew that they were going to be physical. We have a little bit more speed and skill, so we wanted them to kind of chase a little bit,” Frach said. “In the first period, they came out pretty hot, (and) kind of took us off our game, but the more that they ran the more that they got tired, and let us kind of settle in and use our speed and open up space.”

The loss for CEC marks the end of their season as the team finishes with an overall record of 16-9-1, which includes a forfeit win over Northern Edge.


High school hockey
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton junior forward Ryan Jones looks to make a pass during a Section 7AA quarterfinal game against Coon Rapids, Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

Coach Shea Walters said it was an unfortunate ending to what was an overall strong season for the program.

“I’m proud of this group. We proved we can play with the best and that’s where this loss is a tough one,” Walters said. “Getting bounced in the first round is never easy, but then to do it being the higher seed, it’s tough to really swallow when I feel like we were in the driver’s seat and this was the type of team that could make a deep run. So it was a good season for the guys, but to fall short in the postseason is a tough pill to swallow for sure.”

The Lumberjacks opened the game as well as they could have hoped with a power play goal four and a half minutes in by Lucas Rauner. The senior captain later added an even strength goal in the second period that gave CEC a brief 3-2 lead.

Freshman Cole Painovich buried the third and final goal for the home team on the power play deep into the second period to knot the score up at three apiece.

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton freshman Cole Painovich fires a shot on net during a Section 7AA quarterfinal game against Coon Rapids, Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

Coon Rapids proved opportunistic in its offensive output by pouncing on costly mistakes by CEC in the neutral zone. The untimely errors led to a pair of back-breaking goals, including a 2-on-0 breakaway hammered home by leading scorer Tyler Barsness in the second period.

The defensive lapses loomed large, according to Walters.

“Some big mistakes cost us in that game, some bad turnovers while they were transitioning and they found the back of the net,” he said.

In spite of the mistakes, the Lumberjacks remained deadlocked with Coon Rapids after two periods in a 3-3 game.


The Cardinals saved their best period for last with three unanswered goals after firing 19 shots on net over the final 17 minutes of play. Eli Boden and Nolan Hazelwood gave the visitors a two-goal cushion before an empty netter by Roan Bresnahan sealed the Lumberjacks’ fate.

Coon Rapids goaltender Will Wagner finished the game with 39 saves on 42 shots. CEC netminder Caden Kubis stopped 20 of 26 shots.

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