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Lumberjacks compete against tough teams, but lose on the road

KThe Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey team opened the season with back-to-back road losses last weekend. The Lumberjacks opened play on Friday against Lakeville North and fell in overtime 3-2 at the Bloomington Ice Garden. Saturday the 'Jacks dropped a 5-3 decision to St. Thomas Academy.

Against Lakeville North, the Lumberjacks trailed 1-0 after one period of play. Spencer Schneider of the Panthers scored at the 2:47 mark to give his team the lead.

"It was our first period of the season and we actually did some good things," Lumberjacks coach Shea Walters said. "But I told them we need to kind of clean things up and work better together."

"The success of our team is going to be playing together. When you're playing a high-end team like that, they have a lot of skill and they are deep, so you have to play together."

CEC scored goals 48 seconds apart midway through the second period to grab a 2-1 lead on goals by Gavin Rasmussen and Andy Acers. Rasmussen's goal was scored at 8:05 of the second with assists going to Christian Galatz and Landon Langenbrunner and Acers' goal was also assisted by Galatz and Langenbrunner at 8:53. Before the second period ended, the Panthers Ben Monson scored on the power play, tying the game at 2-2 with 5:17 remaining in the middle stanza.

"We played very well in the second period, but that late goal for them to tie it really hurt us," Walters said. "We had them reeling pretty good and all we needed was to not let them come back entering the third period."

Neither team could muster a goal in the third period, but Lakeville North finally ended things when Schneider scored his second goal of the game at the 5:00 mark of overtime, giving the Panthers the win.

Owen Carlson had a solid night in the CEC net, making 27 saves on 30 shots, while Panther goalie Caleb Mayer made 24 saves on 26 shots.

"I thought overall we played well," Walters said. "You know the first game of the year there were some bad habits that we definitely have to clean up."

Saturday's game against St. Thomas Academy saw the 'Jacks behind 2-1 after one period and 4-1 after two periods despite getting the opening goal of the game from Galatz at 5:28 of the first period with Acers assisting. Will Schimek and Rob Cristy scored back-to-back goals for the Cadets to wrap up period one and then it was Joe Deyak and Bjorn Kilen knocking home goals in the second for the three-goal St. Thomas Academy lead.

"We were in that game, but we took a couple of plays off," Walters said. "There was about a two-and-a-half-minute span where everything changed."

The Lumberjacks responded in the third period when Landon Langenbrunner pumped in a pair of goals at 2:40 and 5:17 to cut the margin to 4-3. Langenbrunner's first goal was assisted by Galatz and Drake Nordin and the second was assisted by Rasmussen.

The Cadets added an empty net goal with 34 seconds remaining in regulation to seal the win.

"When we came out of the second period we told the guys we need to come together as a team if we are to have any success, and they responded," Walters said. "The guys came out flying and they pushed hard. Things could have gone either way and we had our chances to tie that game up. Even after we pulled the goal we had our opportunities, but sometimes that's how things go."

"We would rather be playing good-quality opponents throughout the season as opposed to some lesser teams," Walters said. "The long-term picture is what we need to be looking at. We can't be focusing on the fact that we lost our first two games, as long as we are getting better every day and we are peaking at the right time at the end of the season, that is what we are focused on."

This week, CEC will face Chaska and White Bear Lake at home at Northwoods Credit Union Arena on Friday and Saturday.

"We will just get back to work this week and work on the power play and the transition game," Walters said. "We went 0-for-6 on the weekend and that is something we need to work on."

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