Section 7A girls hockey: Loeb nets game-winner in clash with Rock Ridge
The junior forward scored with 26 seconds remaining in a 1-1 game.
CLOQUET — With only 26 seconds remaining in Tuesday’s Section 7A quarterfinal, junior forward Erin Loeb broke loose for a breakaway and delivered the game-winning goal for No. 4 seed Cloquet-Esko-Carlton in a 3-1 victory over No. 5 seed Rock Ridge at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
The tally was especially sweet for Loeb, who had been out with a shoulder injury sustained during the last time the two teams met in late January.
“I think she was priding herself on that bounce-back,” CEC coach Kennedy Houge said. “She’s actually been out since the last time we played Rock Ridge. … I think her goal in the back of her head was I need to bounce back from my injury and obviously putting two pucks in the back of the net does that.”
Loeb opened the scoring for the Lumberjacks just 45 seconds into the contest with a backhand goal on a breakaway, with linemate Gwen Lilly credited with the lone assist. The early marker stood as the difference until Rock Ridge found the equalizer less than seven minutes into the second period as the Wolverines began to push back.
“They didn’t let it drag them down,” Rock Ridge assistant coach Kassie Strand said of the opening goal. “Even the girls that maybe weren’t getting so much ice time were outstanding to have tonight on the bench as well and girls just dug a little bit deeper and we held them at 1-0 for the first and I think that was all we could ask for from them.”
The even-strength goal was set in motion by Alaina Husmann, who fired a shot low to the glove side on CEC goaltender Araya Kiminski, who was unable to corral the puck. Kyra Skelton quickly pounced to even the score at one apiece.
Well-acquainted with tight games after going to overtime 10 times over the course of the season, Houge said the team didn’t panic after the tying goal.
“I think it just forced us to kind of tighten the bootstraps a little bit,” Houge said. “The 1-1, 1-0 game is kind of our bread and butter this year. I think it forced us to really hunker down and do our job and kind of just keep it simple and that’s usually our M.O. when someone bounces back so we have to go back to the basics.”
The Lumberjacks ramped up the pressure in the final frame as play was situated almost entirely in the Rock Ridge zone with goaltender Nola Kwiatowski forced to be at her best.
The game appeared destined for overtime as the clock winded down to under a minute before Loeb sent the CEC crowd into jubilation with the game-winner. Taylor Wick went on to add an empty-net goal moments later to seal the 3-1 win.
The victory sets up a semifinal matchup against No. 1 seed Proctor/Hermantown on Saturday at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.