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Prep boys hockey: East relies on youthful talent to beat CEC

Greyhounds sophomore Cole Christian nets hat trick, and freshman goalie Dane Callaway stops 30 shots in win.

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Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Brayden Tyman (14) tries to maintain control of the puck as he gets knocked down by Duluth East’s Wyatt Peterson (11) in the first period of the game Monday night at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Coming off the program’s first losing season in nearly 70 years, the Duluth East hockey community needed something to look forward to this year.

A bevy of young talent should do the trick.

Led by sophomore forward Cole Christian’s three goals and freshman goaltender Dane Callaway’s 30 saves, the Greyhounds showed why they are optimistic about the future with a 5-1 victory over rival Cloquet-Esko-Carlton on Monday night at Essentia Duluth Heritage Center.

Christian, who at 5-foot-8 is about 3 inches taller than when he played on the varsity as a freshman, continually caused problems, including just 1 minute, 16 seconds into the game when he redirected a Zarley Ziemski shot past Jacob Walsh for the first goal.

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Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Kyle Siiter (28) tries to dump the puck back in front of the net as Duluth East’s Garrett Johnson (20) knocks him away from goalie Dane Callaway (39) in the second period of the game Monday night at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

“I didn’t think he’d be ready to play tonight, but it was nice to have him back,” East coach Mike Randolph said of Christian, who was out injured the previous game. “He creates a lot, and the puck seems to find him. And he has a good supporting class with his classmates.”

Those include junior forward Kaden Nelson, who had a goal and two assists, freshman forward Wyatt Peterson, who scored the clinching goal midway through the third period, and sophomore forward Grant Winkler.

“It’s really exciting looking forward to the future,” Winkler said. “If we keep building our chemistry, we can have some success in the future. This year we’re doing just fine, but next year should be even better.”

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Cloquet-Esko-Carlton goalie Jacob Walsh (33) stops a puck that bounced off Duluth East’s Kaden Nelson (27) in the first period of the game Monday night at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

The Greyhounds (3-1-1) are off to a good start this year, though Randolph cautions about relying too much on underclassmen.

“The thing about young kids is they are up and down,” Randolph said. “I thought we were a little inconsistent tonight. We started out good in the first period, and then we lost (the momentum). Started the second period well, and then we lost our game. Obviously our third period was our best period.

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“But that’s what is going to happen with young kids — they are going to be up and down, and we have to be patient.”

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Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Kyle Siiter (28) goes after the stick of Duluth East’s Matthew Locker (8) to try to knock the puck loose in the first period of the game Monday night at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

After Christian opened the scoring, he took a long pass at the CEC blueline, sped around the defenseman and centered for Nelson, who buried the shot for a 2-0 lead 4:54 into the game.

“We just worked hard and capitalized on our chances,” Christian said.

The Lumberjacks (3-4) fought back with a Jaxson Ochis goal from the right point at 8:35 of the first period.

“They scored a couple early ones, but I thought we controlled the pace of play for about three-quarters of that game,” CEC coach Shea Walters said. “We just gave them too many opportunities, and they capitalized on them, and we had a lot of opportunities and didn’t capitalize on any of them. That’s what it came down to: We didn’t execute on the opportunities that we had.”

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Cloquet-Esko-Carlton goalie Jacob Walsh (33) stops a puck deflected by Duluth East’s Brady Gray (32) in the second period of the game Monday night at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

After a scoreless second period and the first half of the third, it appeared this game would turn out like the teams’ first meeting, a 2-1 East win on Jan. 16.

But instead of reliving the last outcome like a scenario out of the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” — which would have been appropriate since Tuesday marks the rodent’s holiday — the Greyhounds’ youth brigade added to the victory margin.

Peterson scored from the right side at 7:55 of the third, while Christian followed with a goal on the CEC doorstep and again with a slap shot ripped from the left circle to close the scoring.

“He created stuff and got rewarded tonight,” Randolph said of Christian.

Meanwhile, Callaway was tough in the net in just his second varsity appearance. He is splitting time with sophomore Zarley Ziemski early in the season.

“We’re very happy with our goaltending and we’ll continue to rotate them,” Randolph said.

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Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Brock House (2) knocks Duluth East’s Grady Downs (3) off the puck in the second period of the game Monday night at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Cloquet-EC 1-0-0—1

Duluth East 2-0-3—5

First period — 1. DE, Cole Christian (Zarley Ziemski, Henry Murray), 1:16; 2. DE, Kaden Nelson (Christian, Grady Downs), 4:54; 3. CEC, Jaxson Ochis (Kash Gibson, Brock House), 8:35.

Second period — No scoring.

Third period — 4. DE, Wyatt Peterson (Christian, Nelson), 7:55; 5. DE, Christian (Nelson, Downs), 11:39; 6. DE, Christian (Grant Winkler), 15:35.

Saves — Jacob Walsh, CEC, 33; Dane Callaway, DE, 30.

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