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'Jacks escape frenzy with a tie

Following a tough loss to Duluth East the night before, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey team looked to change their fortune Friday when they hosted Holy Angels Academy at Northwoods Credit Union Arena. In what turned out to be one of the most bizarre games played in quite a while, the Lumberjacks ended a three-game losing streak by tying the Stars 8-8 in a seesaw affair.

"In my entire playing and coaching career, I've never seen anything like that game," said CEC coach Shea Walters.

The game featured a plethora of lead changes, a missed open net shot, a great individual effort at the end of the game and a goal with a second remaining by CEC to tie the game.

CEC garnered an early 2-0 lead on goals by Bobby Thornton on the power play and Pat Dunaiski in a man-short situation. Thornton's goal was scored at 5 minutes, 23 seconds, and Dunaiski scored at 5:47 of the first period.

"That first power-play goal was scored by an all-sophomore group," Walters said. "That group has had a lot of power-play success in junior varsity games, so we thought we'd give them a shot, and they went out and scored."

Joining Thornton on the power play were Niko Gentilini and Grady Knutson.

Henry Lechner scored back-to-back goals for Holy Angels at 6:09 and 9:18, which tied things at 2-2 after the first period. Later in the period, CEC took a 3-2 lead after Cole Painovich scored from Lucas Rauner on the power play at 9:53. Unfortunately, the Stars got yet another goal from Lechner at 13:53 and the period ended tied at 3-3.

In the second period, the 'Jacks came out buzzing and picked up goals from Joey Antonutti and Dayne Painovich at 2:11 and 3:55 respectively to go ahead 5-3. Again, the Stars fought back to cut the deficit to 5-4 on a fourth goal by Lechner before the second period ended.

"We held a big shot advantage and we were getting plenty of chances," said Walters. "Then in the third period things just got kind of weird."

Just 1:34 into the third period CEC went up 6-4 on Thornton's second goal of the game on the power play and it looked like CEC had the game under control.

That couldn't have been further from the truth. Holy Angels' Jack Bartfield scored at 3:55 to cut the lead to 6-5 and then he scored again at 6:16 to tie the game at 6-6.

"It just got a bit crazy. Every time you turned around, the puck was going in the net," Walters said.

The Stars gained the lead at 13:33 when Mason Garcia scored to make it 7-6. Then the 'Jacks responded with a second goal by Cole Painovich at 14:09 to tie things at 7-7.

"The scoring just kept coming," Walters said.

Holy Angels grabbed the lead back at 14:33 when Lincoln Ayers scored and it appeared they would pull out a road win in Cloquet. With 20 seconds remaining, the Stars got a breakaway on an empty CEC net and had a chance to tuck the puck home and salt the game away, but Cole Painovich made a diving play to tip the puck into the corner and give the 'Jacks one last rush up the ice.

"That was an amazing play by Cole," said Walters. "He never quit and it gave us that one last chance."

CEC made the best of that chance as Rauner scored from the high slot and hammered home a shot that beat the Stars goalie up high, tying the game with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation.

Neither team scored in overtime, but CEC had its chances as they outshot the Stars 9-1. For the game the Lumberjacks outshot the Stars 41-25.

"We have had some injuries to some key players, but we are seeing some of the younger guys stepping up," Walters said. "We need to tighten things up defensively as a team and we need to be consistent in the nets and scoring."

The tie gives CEC a record of 9-6-1, while the Stars record is now 10-4-1.

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