'Jacks kings for one night: CEC rallies past East in boys hockey
On a roll ever since a dispiriting loss to Andover on Jan. 4, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's recent victims read like a who's who of Minnesota high school hockey — Eden Prairie, Grand Rapids, Roseau, Duluth Marshall and, last week, Hermantown.
Those wins were all fine and dandy, but there's one opponent the Lumberjacks relish beating above all else. And, thanks to an explosive four-goal third period Monday night at Heritage Center, they got the big prize, a 5-3 victory over longtime rival Duluth East.
"This one's more special by far," CEC junior Gavin Rasmussen said. "It's the best feeling ever to beat those guys."
In front of a crowd that ventured out in bone-rattling cold to fill up the Heritage, the red-hot and third-ranked Greyhounds (18-2-3) looked well on their way to a 10th consecutive win after Garrett Worth streaked down the left side and sniped his 38th goal of the season to the far corner, giving East a 2-0 lead with four minutes to go in the second period.
Landon Langenbrunner responded with his 21st of the year late in the period to give the 14th-ranked Lumberjacks (16-6-1) a boost heading into the intermission and snap East's 210-minute, 53-second unscored upon streak.
Then the fireworks started.
CEC's Branden Matteen scored on a breakaway 3:12 into the third following a Greyhounds turnover in the neutral zone. After Austin Jouppi regained the lead for East at 3-2, a loose puck popped out to Rasmussen, who ripped the equalizer from the slot midway through the third. Less than three minutes later, the Lumberjacks went ahead for the first time when Dane Stoyanoff, from just beside the net and facing the end glass, blindly backhanded the puck out front, where Jedd Anich one-timed the go-ahead goal.
Considering East hadn't been scored on in its previous three games, the outburst was unexpected.
"We stuck with what we aim to do and survived some rocky times where things didn't go our way, and we stuck together," CEC coach Kevin Smalley said. "Certainly, it paid off in the end."
Both Rasmussen and Anich's goals came on the power play, a fact that irritated Greyhounds coach Mike Randolph.
"It's just undisciplined," said Randolph, who remains at 615 career wins, one behind Willard Ikola, the legendary former Edina coach who led the Hornets to eight state titles after winning three as a goalie at Eveleth. "If they do that in two weeks, their season will be over real quick."
Suddenly, Section 7AA is dripping with intrigue. East is the frontrunner, but the Lumberjacks have won six of seven and are surging. Andover could be the No. 2 seed, and Duluth Marshall last week stunned St. Thomas Academy, Class AA's second-ranked club.
Throw in Elk River and, well, the section is customarily deep.
CEC's talent never was in question coming into this season. But with a new coach in Smalley, it took some time to mesh. The Lumberjacks' response to a 7-2 loss at Andover indicates they've figured it out.
"I think this group is kind of testing the waters of who we really are and how we need to play to win," Smalley said. "I've said all along, every team needs to learn how to win. It's not an easy thing to do."
While the Greyhounds have been busy blowing teams out — they outscored their previous seven foes by a combined 51-5 — Randolph was concerned about a busy slate that saw East play nine games in 17 days.
"As you keep going that way, you don't get a chance to really practice," he said. "It's been a heck of a stretch, but at the end of the day, things start falling apart. We need to go back to practice and work on some of the things they exposed in us."
By scoring in the second period, Worth now has the most goals in a season by a Greyhound since Dave Spehar totaled 54 in 1995-96.
Sophomore goalie Owen Carlson made 41 saves for the Lumberjacks, who were outshot 44-30.
Duluth East 1-1-1—3
First period — 1. DE, Jack FitzGerald (Nick Lanigan, Carson Cochran), 6:11.
Second period — 2. DE, Garrett Worth (Cochran), 12:52; 3. CEC, Landon Langenbrunner (Aaron Moore, Jon Baker), 15:24.
Third period — 4. CEC, Branden Matteen, 3:12; 5. DE, Austin Jouppi (Luke LaMaster, Brendan Baker), 4:20; 6. CEC, Gavin Rasmussen, 8:58 (pp); 7. CEC, Jedd Anich (Dane Stoyanoff), 11:19 (pp); 8. Rasmussen (Kade Bender), 16:27 (en).
Saves — Owen Carlson, CEC, 41; Parker Kleive, DE, 25.