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Girls hockey: 'Jacks end skid with a win streak

When the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls hockey team lined up on Thursday against Duluth, the team was in serious need of a win. The Lumberjacks had lost five straight games since Dec. 19. CEC responded with an impressive second period and stunned the Northern Stars, 4-3.

The winning kept going into this week, with wins over Northern Tier and Hibbing/Chisholm.

"We needed that win," said CEC coach Kennedy Houge. "We had a string of games that we could have won. With a young team, they need to be rewarded for their hard work."

Erin Loeb scored for the 'Jacks in the first period as they came out of the opening stanza in a 1-all deadlock. In the second period, CEC jumped on the Stars with Loeb, Reese Kuklinski and Paiton Plante all scoring goals. CEC boasted a 4-1 lead entering the final period.

"We made a lot of personnel changes on lines and we shifted line combinations," Houge said. "We haven't had a lot of puck luck and it seemed like every [mistake] we made proved costly, so we just wanted to shake things up."

The Stars responded with a pair of goals in the final period, but the CEC defense and goalie Izzy Strang were able to slam the door and pick up a much needed win. Strang finished with 17 saves on 20 shots.

"Izzy is just an eighth-grader, but she has handled stepping in to the goal very well and is doing a very good job," Houge said.

Saturday afternoon, CEC hit the road to play in East Bethel against the Northern Tier Stars, a cooperative program composed of Cambridge-Isanti, St. Francis and North Branch high schools.

When the ice shavings settled, the Lumberjacks had skated away with an impressive 5-2 win.

The first period was scoreless and the 'Jacks trailed 2-1 after two periods. Gwen Lilly's power play goal was the only tally for CEC through two periods.

"We were playing well through those first two periods despite being behind," said Houge. "Then in the third period, we just got the momentum and did not let up."

CEC erupted for four straight goals from Alli Jones, Emma Parks, Plante, and then another from Parks to round out the scoring.

"We knew that the game would be a grind against a Class AA team that was 12-4-1 coming in," said Houge.

Houge is now hoping that the pair of wins will help to propel the youthful squad forward as the season winds down.

"Every day is a new learning experience and we know we'll have growing pains," Houge said. "I think those two games help the girls understand why we work on the things we do in the practices and why we run the systems we run."

The team doubled up on Hibbing/Chisholm Tuesday in a dominating 4-2 win.

The wins improved the CEC record to 8-11 on the season.