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The Cloquet Lumberjacks — or, more accurately, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Lumberjacks — are going to be a hockey team to contend with as the high school season goes along. First-year coach Shea Walters believes that.
Duluth East coach Mike Randolph is pretty sure, also, although his viewpoint is obscured because the Lumberjacks always play like champions against his Greyhounds, as they did in last week’s 2-1 overtime thriller.
And the entire Hibbing Bluejackets team is convinced that it won’t take the whole season for the Lumberjacks to get untracked. They learned how good Cloquet-Esko-Carlton can be on Tuesday, when the ‘Jacks came off that heartbreaking East loss and buried Hibbing 10-0.
It was quite a week for high school hockey, and the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton at East game was another classic in their long history of classics. In this one, last Thursday at Essentia-Heritage Center, East came out strong, but the Lumberjacks battled them evenly, or at least more evenly than a 6-1 shot advantage for East might indicate.
The shots had gotten to 6-2 when Aaron Moore gained possession along the right boards from Lumberjacks captain Landon Langenbrunner and fed the puck to the top of the right circle where Jon Baker fired a quick shot, high to the left corner of the net, past East goaltender Brody Rabold for a 1-0 CEC lead midway through the opening period.
That score remained after one period, although East had an 8-3 advantage in shots, and a similar edge in the flow of play. When the second period came and went and the score was still 1-0, the East fans grew uneasy, as the Greyhounds shooting edge grew to 16-7 without any goals.
At 12:01 of the third period, Aaron Moore was called for tripping, giving East a power play. It took just seven seconds until Ricky Lyle pounced on the puck at the crease and banged his shot through Owen Carlson in the CEC net, tying the game 1-1.
However, despite a three-period tally of 28-12 in shots, the game remained 1-1 when the regulation time ended. Logan Anderson, a skilled junior Greyhound, was called for a tripping penalty at 16:06, meaning the Lumberjacks would end regulation and start overtime on a power play.
It didn’t help their cause that sophomore defenseman Mason Langenbrunner, the second son of former NHLer Jamie Langenbrunner on the team, and a key ingredient on the power play, was out with an injury. But the Jacks opened overtime on the advantage. But as the penalty time dwindled, Logan Anderson devised a plan to get out of coach Mike Randolph’s doghouse.
He came out of the penalty box and broke for the far blue line, just as defenseman Frederick Paine got possession in the East zone. Paine spotted Anderson and fired a perfect, 90-foot pass right on his stickblade. Anderson zoomed in all alone, made a little deke to his right and came back to his forehand, eluding the desperate reach of goaltender Carlson, and tucking his shot into the net.
The Greyhound fans, seated right behind the goal, went predictably crazy as the ‘Hounds poured off the bench to engulf Anderson at the end boards.
“I mentioned to Logan that it was a good thing he put that one away,’ said Randolph. “Otherwise, I had a few things in mind to talk to him about that last penalty.
“It was a typical East-Cloquet game,” Randolph added. “Whenever they play East, they come to play.”
Walters, a former star forward at Hibbing, became coach at Cloquet after Kevin Smalley ran into a tangle and was not renewed after one season. He had worked in the Cloquet program, so he knew the players, having assisted Smalley last season.
“We were all yelling ‘box,‘ from the bench in overtime, trying to alert everybody that their guy was coming out, but we were so focused on trying to score, I don’t think they heard it,” said Walters.
“Our record doesn’t show that we’ve played hard, and we’ve competed hard every game. But no matter what, this game is one we always point for. But we’re now 1-6, and we’re better than that.”
The goal-eruption against Hibbing ended a month of frustration. It began when CEC lost 3-2 at Lakeville North, and 5-3 at St. Thomas Academy, then 4-0 against a very strong Chaska team, and 3-1 to White Bear Lake, 4-3 at Bloomington Jefferson, and finally won 5-3 over Eagan. That led up to the East game, and meant that the Lumberjacks had scored nine goals in their last five games — before scoring 10 against Hibbing.
The talent is there, and Walters is in the process of pulling things together. Maybe those things came together against Hibbing, which serves further warning for all upcoming Lumberjacks foes.
Vikings rout Miami keep NFL hopes alive
The fans and media boosters of the Minnesota Vikings are feeling good again, now that the Vikings have whipped Miami 41-17. Quarterback Kirk Cousins looked good, and the offense was sharp under Kevin Stefanski, the man picked to be offensive coordinator in place of the deposed John DeFilippo after a hapless performance in the 21-7 loss at Seattle a week previous.
Coach Mike Zimmer said he wanted to run the ball more, and he’s the boss. Under DeFilippo, the Vikings were pass-first and ran only occasionally. However, there is an interesting bit of evidence that keeps poking its head up.
Is it possible that Seattle is a better team — a far better team — than Miami? The Vikings have had trouble running the ball against tough foes, and since their bye, they had gone 1-3 with losses to Chicago, New England and Seattle and a victory over Green Bay. Those are all tough teams, all tougher than Miami, which statled everyone by surprising the New England Patriots in a crazy finish.
Nevertheless, with about equal yards from rushing and passing against Miami, it will be interesting to see if Stefanski and Cousins can work together for the same sort of attack in Detroit on Sunday. The Lions aren’t very good, again, but they can be tough. If the Vikings win, the momentum will be great when they come home to finish the regular season against the division champion Chicago Bears.
One other sobering fact is that Cousins was 7-for-7 as the Vikings strode to a 21-0 lead over Miami, but it all came unraveled when the Dolphins got an interception by Minkah Fitzpatrick for a 50-yard touchdown. There followed a lengthy stretch when the aroused Dolphins took it to the Vikings, cutting the deficit to 21-10 by halftime, and 24-17 in the third quarter.
The Vikings pulled away in the fourth quarter, with a 17-point finish that ballooned the score to 41-17. We can all be relieved, at least for the week. Then it’s off to Detroit to see if they can duplicate the 10 sacks they inflicted on Matthew Stafford back in Week 9 at Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, two games of the week on Sunday will feature Pittsburgh at New Orleans in a classic Ben Roethlisberger vs. Drew Brees duel, and Kansas City at Seattle in a Pat Mahomes vs. Russell Wilson match-up with Seattle needing a victory to improve its wild-card status, and KC needing to win in its quest to top the Los Angeles Chargers for the AFC West title.