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Hermantown beats Cloquet-Esko-Carlton in boys hockey

Flu-like symptoms kept Adam Smith from a scheduled start during a Hermantown rough patch in early January, but the junior goaltender hasn't shown any ill effects since returning to the Hawks' lineup.

Boys hockey
Grant Sega (29) of Hermantown and Karson Kuhlman (20) of Cloquet Esko Carlton battle for the puck during game action Thursday night, Jan. 31, 2013, at Hermantown Arena. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Flu-like symptoms kept Adam Smith from a scheduled start during a Hermantown rough patch in early January, but the junior goaltender hasn't shown any ill effects since returning to the Hawks' lineup.

Smith stopped 24 shots Thursday night in the Hawks' 4-1 high school boys hockey victory over Cloquet-Esko-Carlton at Hermantown Arena, keeping a perfect record between the pipes this season.

"Right now he's the hot hand," Hawks coach Bruce Plante said. "Tonight was a big test to see how he was going to do, and he played great."

After alternating most of the season with junior Jace Thomas, Smith has started the past three games and allowed just one goal in each contest to raise his record to 8-0-1 and keep the fifth-ranked Hawks (15-4-1, 3-2) in the running for a fifth consecutive Lake Superior Conference title.

Smith's biggest stop of the night was an instinctive reaction on Beau Michaud's shot from the edge of the crease, a save that preserved Hermantown's 2-1 lead in the second period.

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"It's a great motivator when a goalie can steal a goal like that, especially from a great line," junior defenseman Neal Pionk said, referring to the Beau Michaud-Westin Michaud-Karson Kuhlman first line. "They are a great line and it was definitely an emphasis to stop them tonight."

Minutes later, Pionk wristed a shot from the left circle to the upper right corner to give Hermantown a two-goal advantage in a period they dominated.

Smith deflected any praise onto a defensive unit that includes Pionk, who has committed to Minnesota Duluth, Jake Zeleznikar and Christian Wasbotten.

"They stopped a lot backdoor passes and blocked a lot of shots," Smith said of the defense.

Plante was most pleased with his team's ability to hold the lead in the final 17 minutes, something they failed to do three times in January.

"That's not Hermantown hockey -- we've always been able to hold those leads," he said. "That's why I'm happy tonight."

CEC (12-6-2, 3-1) was playing its third game in four nights while Hermantown hadn't played since last week. Still, the Lumberjacks jumped ahead 8:27 into the game when Dylan Michaud converted a James Newgren behind-the-net pass. Joe Muehlbauer evened matters later in the first on a shot from the right sideboards before the Hawks took over in the second period.

"I'm sure they were a little tired because they had a couple tough games, but that's how the schedule goes," Plante said. "They were draggin' the wagon a couple times as we beat them to some loose pucks, and that makes a difference."

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CEC coach Dave Esse said his team was tired but refused to use that as an excuse, crediting Hermantown with playing a better game.

"We were gassed; it wasn't our best effort," he said. "But I love the poise they had with the puck, especially their defensemen. It's a typical disciplined Hermantown team."

Cloquet-EC 1-0-0--1

Hermantown 1-2-1--4

First period -- 1. CEC, Dylan Michaud (James Newgren, Nate Niemi), 8:27; 2. H, Joe Muehlbauer, 12:08.

Second period -- 3. H, Bo Gronseth (Chris Benson), 2:53; 4. H, Neal Pionk (Benson), 15:51.

Third period -- 5. H, Gronseth (Travis Koepke, Jake Zeleznikar), 16:40 (en).

Saves -- Zack Strom, DD, 33; Adam Smith, H, 24.

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