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With goal stoppers, Lumberjacks need goal scorers

There’s an adage in hockey that to be a successful team you need to build from the nets out, meaning good goaltending is key. If that’s true, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boy’s hockey team should have a pretty good shot at success this season.

“In my opinion, we have two of the best goalies in the state,” said CEC coach Shea Walters. “Jacob Walsh and Kyle Abrahamson played in the elite league this fall and both were heavily scouted and finished as two of the top goalies in the league.”

At 6 feet 3 inches tall, Abrahamson uses his size and ability to slide side to side as well as anyone Walters has ever seen. Walsh is the ultimate competitor and is one of the most tenacious goalies Walters has ever run into.

“Both of them are also great athletes,” Walters said. “I don’t know that you’ll ever have two goalies as good as these two on a high school team ever again.”

After going 11-8-1 last season, the ’Jacks will need to find a way to put the puck into the net. That is something they struggled with last year.

“We will always be good on defense,” said Walters. “We will work hard backchecking and doing the little things you need to do on defense. Offensively, I think we have some guys who can score, and we just hope they get a good start, which can help that part of the snowball in a good way.”

Up front, the ’Jacks will have depth and will look for junior Jace Stewart to help jumpstart the offense.

“I think he has the chance to really be an offensive catalyst for us,” said Walters. “Last year he was injured playing football at Esko and he wasn’t able to play hockey, but right now he looks really good.”

In a scrimmage last weekend, Walters put Stewart on a line with Noah Knutson and Pat Dunaiski, and the trio looked impressive. All three are juniors this season. The Lumberjacks also have strong players in seniors Wyatt Mrozik, Cade Gonsorowski and Aaron Ermatinger. The sophomore class also appears to be a group that could turn heads up front.

“I like our younger guys, and our juniors show a lot of promise,” Walters said.

Back on the blue line, the Lumberjacks will have a core group of talent back.

“One of our surprises last year was Lucas Rauner — who came in as a sophomore and is now a junior, and played every varsity game for us,” Walters said. “A lot of our guys played a ton of hockey this summer and fall, and that makes it easier for us to build off of what they have already been doing.”

Seniors Carter Salo and Grant Nordin and juniors Gino Bertogliat and Karson Patten will all help anchor a blue line which will also be aided by a freshman, Karson Young.

“Young is incredibly impressive as a ninth-grader,” Walters said. “He is big, very smart and crafty, and can play the entire game. He will help us for sure.”

The Lumberjacks have high expectations and expect to be in the mix come playoff time.

“We have high hopes every year,” Walters said. “Almost every year we have teams and people that don’t give us a lot of credit. We have a lot to work on and we will need a high level of competitiveness, but if we can find the scoring, I think we have all the other ingredients to be a good hockey team.”

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