CEC on a roll; ranked No. 2
January 17, 2020
After starting the season 1-2, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls hockey team has steamrolled the competition and have cruised to 16 straight wins including wins over Duluth Marshall, Cambridge-Isanti and Hibbing/Chisholm in the past week. The Lumberjacks are now 17-2 and ranked No. 2 in the most recent Class A state girls hockey rankings.
Oh, and by the way, the win streak is a school record.
"We are taking it shift by shift, game by game and just focusing on the task at hand," said CEC coach Courtney Olin. "Regardless of our record, our focus is just on getting better each day and hoping to be playing our best hockey, come playoff season, when it counts."
If the Lumberjacks play any better than they already are, they will be a tough out when tournament time rolls around. On Thursday, Jan. 9, CEC got a natural hat trick from senior forward Kiana Bender in their 3-0 win over Duluth Marshall, which was ranked No. 12 in Class A.
"It's been amazing because nobody really expected us to break a girls hockey record for the longest win streak and it's awesome that we are performing so well," Bender said. "I think it is kind of a good feeling in a way because if we are the team to beat and everyone is nervous to play us then we have every reason to play harder and beat our rivals."
Against Marshall, Bender scored in the first period at 9:29 assisted by Taylor Nelson and Tenley Stewart. She added her second goal at 1:06 of the second period with Nelson providing the assist. Bender's final goal came at 5:10 of the third period with Stewart and Emmie Ellena assisting.
Maureen Dwyer was called on to make 31 saves on 34 Lumberjack shots while CEC goalie Araya Kiminski finished with 17 saves in getting her first career shutout.
The Lumberjacks struggled to put away Cambridge-Isanti on Saturday in Cloquet, but in the end the Lumberjacks found a way to get their 16th win. Taylor Nelson punched home a pair of goals and also added two assists in the 5-4 win
"The seven seniors on this team know what we want for our last season of playing together," explained Nelson, the lone Carlton player on the squad. "We have shown teams they can't take us lightly. We haven't really even thought about our win streak because we focus on the present and the next game."
On Saturday, both teams traded first period goals with Cambridge-Isanti scoring first at 6:38 and then Nelson answering at 14:28 with assists to Keelee Grashorn and Ashtyn Schneberger.
Bender gave CEC the lead at 1:22 of the second period with Nelson and Ellena assisting, but C-I tied it just 16 seconds later.
CEC took the lead for good at 10:01 on a power play goal by Marina Dostal, then Dea DeLeon made it 4-2 for CEC when the senior from Esko scored on a power play at 13:08 with the assist going to Nelson. After the Blue Jackets cut the lead to 4-3 at the 39 second mark of the third period, Nelson responded with her second goal of the game at 3:01 with Ellena and Bender assisting. Cambridge-Isanti notched the final goal of the game with 1:59 remaining, but the 'Jacks and goaltender Kiminski slammed the door the rest of the way.
"We are fortunate to have a great group of hardworking players, who are coachable, disciplined and have that drive to succeed," Olin said. "The camaraderie among the team is great and it is fun to come to the rink every day."
Win streak or no win streak, the team is keeping things in perspective.
Perhaps Nelson said it best:
"What it really comes down to is the playoffs," Nelson said. "Once playoffs hit, our win streak means nothing. We have to make sure once playoffs start that we take what we learned throughout the season and execute, and that is what really matters and I believe in my team."
On Tuesday night the 'Jacks kept the streak alive with a hard-fought 2-1 road win at Hibbing/Chisholm. Nelson scored the first goal of the game in the second period with Bender and Frankie Halverson assisting at the 2:22 mark, but the Bluejackets answered back with the tying goal at 12:37 to send the game to the third period with a 1-1 tie. Bender got the final goal of the game, and the only goal of the third period, on an assist from Nelson and Dea DeLeon on a power play at 6:12.