'Sad' end, Lumberjacks upset in playoffs


February 24, 2023

Dave Harwig

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's Joey Antonutti tries to beat Coon Rapids goaltender Will Wagner during Tuesday night's Section 7AA quarterfinal hockey game at Northwoods Arena.

The Lumberjacks boys hockey team had more shots but fewer goals Tuesday as they fell to Coon Rapids, 6-3, in the quarterfinal round of the Section 7AA boys hockey playoffs. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, the No. 4 seed, took on the No. 5 seeded Cardinals at Northwoods Credit Union Arena. The loss eliminated the 'Jacks from the playoffs.

CEC got onto the board first when Lucas Rauner scored on a shot from the left point just 7 seconds into a power play. Patrick Dunaiski won the draw that led to the score, making it 1-0 at 4 minutes, 30 seconds of the first period.

"That was the kind of start we wanted," said CEC coach Shea Walters. "We won the draw and did a good job of getting the puck to the net."

Before the period ended, the Cardinals tied it at 1-1 on a goal by Cayden Alphin at 11:52. The score came on a scramble around CEC goalie Caden Kubis, who attempted to poke the puck away from Alphin.

Rauner picked up his second goal of the game at 4:40 of the second period to give the 'Jacks a 2-1 lead with assists going to Ethan Kilichowski and Jace Stewart. Before the period ended, the Cardinals went ahead 3-2 after scoring back-to-back goals at 9:20 and 10:48, with the first of those two goals coming on a power play.

"We gave up too many odd-man rushes," Walters said. "We knew that their offense liked to stretch three guys out, and our forecheck was designed to neutralize that and to give us odd-man chances in the offensive zone, but we let them get loose too many times, and it cost us."

The Lumberjacks showed mental fortitude by answering with a power play goal of their own before the second period ended, when Cole Painovich picked up a loose puck in the slot with Alex Kazel and Dunaiski notching the assists as the period closed with a tie game at 3-3.

Things got dicey for CEC when Coon Rapids' Eli Boden scored just 3:10 into the third period. It got worse when Nolan Hazelwood intercepted a pass at the blue line and walked in all alone on Kubis for a goal to push the lead to 5-3.

CEC pulled Kubis for an extra attacker, but the Cardinals eventually made CEC pay with a length-of-the-ice empty net goal at 14:36 that ended any chance of a Lumberjacks comeback.

Dave Harwig

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's Lucas Rauner shoots the puck during Tuesday night's Section 7AA quarterfinal game with Coon Rapids. Rauner would score two goals in the Lumberjacks' 6-3 loss.

The Lumberjacks outshot the Cardinals 41-25, but Coon Rapids goalie Will Wagner was stellar, making 38 saves to pick up the win.

"We just allowed their goalie to see too many of those shots cleanly," Walters said. "We didn't go to the hard places on the ice enough, and you have to be willing to do that. This was just such a tough loss because we believed we had the kind of team that could have gone deeper into the playoffs. They are such a good group of guys that it just makes it tough to lose."

The loss dropped the 'Jacks record to 15-9-1. CEC will lose seven seniors to graduation.

"I am just extra-proud of this group of guys," Walters said. "I am proud of what they did. It is just sad it had to end this way for a great group of kids."

Coon Rapids, now 12-12-2, will play Duluth East in the Section 7AA semifinals on Monday at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Games are 5:30 p.m., for single A, and 7:30 p.m.


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