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Cloquet-Esko-Carlton whips Duluth East girls in early 7AA showdown

Girls high school hockey is still in the growing stage in Minnesota, and particularly in northern Minnesota. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton could be in perfect position to exploit that disparity in talent, and could rank as the early favorite in Section 7A...

Girls high school hockey is still in the growing stage in Minnesota, and particularly in northern Minnesota. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton could be in perfect position to exploit that disparity in talent, and could rank as the early favorite in Section 7AA, if its opening-game 4-1 victory over Duluth East Thursday night is any indication.
Tamara Price, Danae Olean and Stephanie Gassert scored first-period goals for the Lumberjacks, and goaltender Johanna Ellison had little difficulty making the 3-0 lead stand up against the Greyhounds. Jenna Roberts made it 4-0 by whacking in a rebound early in the third period, and it wasn't until 1:01 remained that Trista Cooke converted a Katy DeBoer pass at the crease for East's lone goal.
"They're solid," said East coach Jack Shearer. "If you said we'd play Cloquet in the final, I'd take it, but we need to get by Central-Denfeld and Grand Rapids. And we can't count out Proctor-Hermantown-Marshall."
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton coach Dick Bartholdi, who, ironically, grew up playing sports at Portman Square in Lakeside, an East breeding ground, said he, too, would accept the theory that the two teams could meet three months from now in the 7AA final. That's a realistic possibility because Hibbing, the reigning power of the North, has opted to move down to Class A, where the Bluejackets are prohibitive favorites.
"I hope we could play East in the section final," said Bartholdi. "But these things go in cycles. I remember the Cloquet boys beat East about 12 in a row, and then East got going and beat Cloquet about 15 in a row. But there's always going to be that extra intensity in Cloquet when we play against East, and it's the same for the girls."
The Lumberjacks have some powerful skaters up front, and some strong defensemen who can take the puck end to end in a flash. That includes defensemen Olean and Michelle Mauna, the two most dominant players on the ice at Cloquet Thursday night. Olean is the only senior on the roster, and a powerful force who jumped on the puck in the right corner and stickhandled out to the slot before snapping a backhander past East goalie Jaime Crain at 10:43 of the first period to make it 2-0.
Maunu is an eighth-grade defenseman who assisted on the first goal, by Price, a sophomore who also was assisted by Liz Palkie on the play. Palkie, also a sophomore, just joined the hockey team after finishing second in the state cross country run.
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton has four ninth-graders along with the one eighth-grader, plus seven sophomores and three juniors, so area girls teams can get used to seeing the same Lumberjacks getting better as they get stronger and faster in years to come. Ellison, who made 23 saves in goal, is one of the freshmen.
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"Five years ago, we started girls hockey with an under-12 team in Cloquet," said Bartholdi, whose daughter, Brigitte, is a freshman on the team. "At the time, we had five girls in that room, and we asked if anybody wanted to play goalie. Johanna Ellison said she would, so she's always been a goalie. She started for us when we started a high school team. This is our third year, so she played as a seventh-grader, and now she's a ninth-grader, so we've only got her for four more years."
The coach was joking, of course, because the thought of having such a skilled and experienced netminder for four more years would warm the heart of any coach. On top of that, the Lumberjacks were missing two players, defenseman Whitney Roe and forward Jamie Warndahl, for the East game.
East, however, was missing star senior defenseman Becky Fisher, one of the strongest players in the area. Fisher is off on an official recruiting visit to St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, and the Greyhounds obviously missed her end-to-end rushes against Cloquet.
But East had opened with an 8-1 victory at Rochester John Marshall, and an 11-1 blowout against Greenway at Pioneer Hall, yet didn't resemble a team that already had 19 goals on its resume when it played a Cloquet team that hadn't played yet.
Shearer had a similar tale to tell about his goaltender, Jaime Crain, who made 25 saves for the 'Hounds. Shearer coached the Duluth Dynamite to the region's superiority and the state tournament four years ago, and became East's coach when the Dynamite was split in two groups.
"Three years ago, when we started, we had to ask, 'Who wants to play goal?' And Jaime was the one who said, 'I will.' She's a senior this year, and she's come a long way."
The same might be said of girls hockey in the Northland.

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