Christian Galatz stayed home from Cloquet High School on Wednesday, the victim of a mid-winter cold.
Illness did what opposing teams have had little success in accomplishing this season: slowing down Galatz.
The junior left wing has 22 goals and 15 assists for 37 points this season, including a pair of overtime game-winners against rival Duluth East and Centennial.
“He has that clutch gene,” CEC coach Shea Walters said. “It’s cliche, but big players show up in big games. He always wants the puck on his stick when the game’s on the line.
“Whenever we need a goal in a key moment, he’s the first guy that we look upon.”
The power-play goal to beat East just 24 seconds into the extra session ranks as Galatz’s top moment. It was indicative of his ability to score at crucial times.
“Those big goals, my main focus is get (the puck) to the net. No matter where I am on the ice, go straight to the net,” he said. “It always motivates the team after the game and I think it helps us going into the next game.”
The 5-foot-9, 150-pound Galatz had a solid sophomore campaign, racking up 16 goals and 14 assists to finish second on the team in scoring with 30 points, but he wasn’t planning on dominating the ice the way he has so far.
“I was not expecting to have this good of a start,” he said. “It definitely played out differently than I thought, which is good. I came in with a good mindset and played how I know how to play.”
Walters puts Galatz on his first power-play unit (he has six goals with the extra attacker) and also on the penalty kill, where he also has netted a goal. Aaron Moore centers the top line and Cole Ketola and Logan Dushkin have split time at right wing.
“He’s had a fantastic year,” Walters said of Galatz. “He’s our ignitor for our offense, that’s for sure. You never have to question whether he’s going to bring it every night.”
Part of the reason for Galatz’s success may be that he played a dozen games for the Minnesota Wilderness of the North American Hockey League and will return to the Cloquet-based junior team after the high school season.
“It definitely helped me improve my stickwork,” Galatz said. “It’s a really good development program.”
Though he didn’t score a goal and totaled only one point against older opponents in the fall, Walters says facing junior teams was a good learning experience for Galatz.
“On the stat sheet it didn’t really show up, but just playing at that higher level with a little more pace to the game, that’s a huge step,” the coach said. “After playing what would be a half of our season against bigger, faster, stronger kids, I think he stepped in ready to go this season.”
Though he has another season-and-a-half of high school eligibility, Galatz says he has been in discussions with at least two unnamed Division I colleges. Earning a scholarship down the road is his goal, and it’s something Walters says is in sight.
“He’s got the makeup to be a Division I hockey player,” Walters said. “I talked to a few (coaches) the other day and the one thing they thought was consistent was that he shows up for every game.
“What I like about him is that he plays with a gritty edge to his game. He plays bigger than he actually is. You love to watch kids play at full speed 100 percent of the game. He has such a good motor on him that he doesn’t get tired out there. It’s nice to have a guy you can lean on.”
For now, Galatz is excited to just help the Lumberjacks (8-7-1) reach their potential in Section 7AA. Though they are unbeaten in four overtime games, CEC also has lost six games by two goals or less.
“There’s always ups and downs with every high school team, but I have faith in this team to go far,” Galatz said. “We just have to put in the effort and we’ll be fine.”
PREP NEWSMAKER: CHRISTIAN GALATZ
Prep status: Cloquet senior
School activities: None
Family: Father, Pat; mother, Nacole; brother, Tyler Carlson, 24; sister, Serena, 21
College plans: Hopes to earn a Division I hockey scholarship