'Jacks take hardware in Duluth


January 6, 2023

Dave Harwig

The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey team poses with the Heritage Classic trophy after beating Park of Cottage Grove, 5-2, Thursday at the Duluth Heritage Sports Center.

This season's version of the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey team is a throwback look at old-time hockey. Last week, these Lumberjacks parlayed physical play, sound penalty killing and an opportunistic offense into three straight wins in the Duluth Heritage Classic with the end result a championship trophy.

CEC opened the holiday tournament on Dec. 27, taking on Apple Valley/Burnsville, a game the 'Jacks won, 9-3.

Dayne Painovich scored the lone goal of the first period as CEC went up 1-0. Things opened up in the second period, with the 'Jacks scoring four straight goals to lead 5-1 before Apple Valley/Burnsville answered with the last two goals of the period, making it 5-3. CEC's second-period goals were scored by Ryan Jones, Painovich, Ethan Kilichowski and Grady Knutson.

"We talk to the guys about playing the long game, which basically means we need to take the body," head coach Shea Walters said. "As we get deeper in the game, that body work will wear on the other teams. That's pretty much what happened in that game."

As Apple Valley/Burnsville wore down, the 'Jacks got stronger. In the third period CEC scored three more goals to win going away. Painovich scored his third goal of the game, Joey Antonutti added two goals and Pat Dunaiski chipped in with a goal as CEC outscored Apple Valley/Burnsville 4-1 in the final stanza.

CEC outshot Apple Valley/Burnsville, 28-26, and Lumberjacks goalie Logan Sickmann finished with 23 saves on 26 shots.

Game No. 2 saw the Lumberjacks down Mankato West, 6-3, in a game in which CEC scored three goals in the final period to break open a 3-3 tie. Joey Antonutti led the 'Jacks with a four-goal game.

"The key to our team is the guys have bought into the fact that we need to know our identity and our identity is being a physical team," Walters said. "We were down after a period and then crawled back into it. By the third period, we just wore them down with our physical style of play."

Pat Dunaiski and Noah Knutson also scored goals for the 'Jacks.

"We rely heavily on Joe (Antonutti) and his physical presence," Walters said. "He is just so strong and he spent a lot of time this offseason working on his skills. Now, he is being rewarded for that work."

Sickmann made 21 saves on 24 shots for CEC as the Lumberjacks outshot Mankato West, 36-24.

On Thursday, the Lumberjacks topped off the tournament by capturing the title game, 5-2, over Park of Cottage Grove.

"We got off to a quick start against them," Walters said. "As the game wore on ... we just kept using the body and ended up winning the tournament."

In the first period, Jace Stewart picked up the first goal 2 minutes, 13 seconds into the game. Just 43 seconds later, Pat Dunaiski scored, making it 2-0. Before the period ended, Dunaiski tacked on his second goal to make it 3-0.

After Park pulled to within 3-1 just a 1:16 into the second period, the Lumberjacks got a Knutson goal to make it 4-1, and that's how the second period ended. CEC ended the scoring in the third period on an empty-net goal by Lucas Rauner with just 19 seconds left to play to clinch the title.

Sickmann finished with 13 saves on 15 shots as CEC outshot Park, 29-15, in the game.

"It was good to see the guys get rewarded for their hard work," Walters said. "The boys realize if they stick to what we do best, we can play with anyone."

Winning ways continue

The Lumberjacks returned to regular-season action Monday at home and used the same recipe to defeat Mounds View.

"Our boys just stuck to the game plan of playing physical," Walters said. "We fought from behind and by the time the second and third periods came around, I felt very comfortable with where the game was headed, because our guys know their identity."

CEC got the first goal of the game from Noah Knutson on the power play, but the Mustangs came out of the first period up 2-1.

Dave Harwig

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton goaltender Logan Sickmann deflects a puck over the net during Thursday's Heritage Classic championship game with Park of Cottage Grove.

Mounds View also scored the first goal of the second period on a power play, but as the period wore on CEC started taking control of territorial play. With 1:13 remaining in the second, Dunaiski scored on a pretty pass from Karson Young to make it 3-2.

The 'Jacks also had a chance as the period expired to score with a goal-mouth scramble in front of the Mustangs net, but they couldn't jam home the tying goal. CEC outshot Mounds View, 16-5, in the second period as they seized complete control of the game.

CEC completely dominated Mounds View in the third period, pounding 18 shots on Mustang goalie Aidan Petrich. Walters gave Alex Kazel a shout-out, noting that he and others "made their presence known all game long."

Antonutti tied the game at the 3:38 mark of the third, and Owen Wilson scored his first varsity goal at 9:41 in what proved to be the game winner. Dunaiski scored an empty-net goal at 15:08.

Caden Kubis stopped 16 of 19 shots for CEC in goal as the 'Jacks improved their record to 7-2.


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