Girls Hockey: Lumberjacks to face Mirage in Section 7A championship game Wednesday
February 7, 2020
The girls hockey match up everyone has been waiting for has arrived. On Wednesday night the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Lumberjacks will square off against the Proctor-Hermantown Mirage in Proctor for the Section 7A championship.
Both teams took care of their semi-final opponents on Saturday to set up the third meeting of the two squads. CEC won the first meeting 4-2, while the Mirage downed the 'Jacks 6-1 just over two weeks ago. The Lumberjacks, who are 24-3 on the season come into the game as the No. 1 seed. The Mirage are 19-8 and the No. 2 seed.
CEC reeled off a school record 17 straight wins and have won 23 of their past 24 games. The Mirage, after starting slowly, have now won 12 of their last 13 games. In other words, this meeting has the appearance of two freight trains on a collision course with the right to go to the state tournament on the line.
The Lumberjacks did their part in the first semi-final game Saturday by downing Hibbing/Chisholm for a third time this season, notching a 5-1 win.
Kiana Bender got things started just 5:40 into the opening stanza by slipping a goal by Blue Jacket netminder Addison Hess making it 1-0 for CEC.
"The first goal set the stage for the entire game," said CEC head coach Courtney Olin. "We talked a lot about the importance of setting the pace and coming out with high intensity and we did just that."
Bender's goal was followed by two quick goals by Taylor Nelson - who ended up with three goals in the game for CEC - making it 3-0 at the 10:36 mark of the first period. However, Hibbing/Chisholm answered with a goal with just 21 seconds remaining in the first period, giving them life entering the locker room.
"We knew going into the game that they are extremely well coached and they play solid position defense," Olin said. "We knew we would have to capitalize on any scoring opportunity we had."
The Bluejackets mounted a strong effort in the second period, but CEC goalie Araya Kiminski withstood their forecheck keeping the 'Jacks up 3-1 after two periods.
"Araya played very well in the nets for us," explained Olin. "It has been fun to see her progress and mature as a goaltender throughout the season."
Nelson, CEC's top scorer, showed her scoring prowess by notching her third goal of the game at 5:42 of the third period, giving the 'Jacks a 4-1 lead and a bit of breathing room. As the Bluejackets got desperate they began to apply pressure in the CEC zone and eventually the Lumberjacks took a penalty, giving H/C life. Unfortunately for them - and fortunately for the 'Jacks - Jaxie Pogorelc was the recipient of a nifty play by Dea DeLeon in a shorthanded situation as Pogorelc fired a puck past Hess, making it 5-1 and effectively putting the game out of reach.
Kiminski made 13 saves for CEC on 14 shots and Hess finished with 17 saves on 22 shots for Hibbing/Chisholm.
The second game of the semi-finals on Saturday saw the Mirage strike four second period goals as they skated away with a 4-0 win over the Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers, setting up the rematch with CEC on Wednesday.
"We know going in that they are a very skilled team with a lot of depth and we are going to focus on cleaning up our defensive end over the next few practices to prepare for Wednesday," Olin said. "We are so proud to be playing in the section semi-final for the first time in 11 years, but we aren't satisfied with just being there. We want to show up on Wednesday and make some noise."
Editor's note: A version of this story will appear in the Feb. 14 issue of the Pine Knot News, but we wanted folks to know about the big game at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Proctor so they could go support the team, or listen on WKLK 96.5 FM.