VIRGINIA — No. 3 seed Cloquet-Esko-Carlton saw his 12-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of No. 2 seed Duluth Marshall in the Section 7A semifinals on Saturday, February 12 at the Iron Trail Motors Event Center.
The Lumberjacks had allowed just one goal in their last nine games before the Hilltoppers broke for five in a 5-1 final. The five-goal mark represents a season high in goals against for the CEC, which finished the 2021-22 season with an overall record of 19-7-1.
“Obviously it didn’t end the way any of us would have liked, but sadly only two teams end up winning so the majority of us are feeling the agony of defeat.” , said CEC coach Courtney Olin. “I think in the moment tonight it stings a bit, but overall I definitely think we’ve improved over the season and hopefully our players have had a good experience. “
Olin tipped his cap towards the Hilltoppers, whose skill proved too much for the ‘Jacks’ to contain.
“At the end of the day, their talent just beat our defensive game,” Olin said. “We spend a lot of time on the systems and work hard, and I honestly think our girls worked as hard as they could, but I think their skill set just overtook our systems and defensive style of play.”
Marshall’s win was aided by a solid performance in net from Rae Anderson, who was especially sharp early in the first period in the face of plenty of quality scoring opportunities for the Lumberjacks on the forecheck.
“In the first eight minutes she was really tested and we really needed her to be big at that point and she was,” Marshall’s coach Amanda Boulier said. “She has a funny way of stepping up when we’re not playing well, and I think she did that today. She was really the key to us scoring that first power play goal and really deflecting it from there.
The first quarter was scoreless until Kendra Royer found the back of the net on the power play for the Hilltoppers at 14:32. The power play goal allowed by CEC was its first since December 18 against Sartell/Sauk Rapids.
Boulier came away satisfied with the team’s puck movement with the extra skater.
“I think our power play does a great job of getting possession and just moving their killers around,” Boulier said. “We executed switching plays and just ways to move their kill in a way that teams have never done before. So our power play did a great job and we were able to run just kind of a fat goal up front.
The Hilltoppers dominated the middle frame with their depth up front continuing to wear down the Lumberjacks.
Goalkeeper Araya Kiminski held firm against the barrage but couldn’t stop a shot from Annika Lindgren midway through the period that gave Marshall a 2-0 lead. The Hilltoppers added a third goal four minutes later by Ilsa Lindaman to make it 3-0.
Desperate for a spark, CEC moved defenseman Tenley Stewart forward in hopes of generating some attack. The decision paid off, as Stewart cut the deficit to two with 27 seconds left in the period with a well-deserved goal.
“Tenley is just a very versatile player… We knew we had to be on the scoreboard. Just with her skill, we thought we’d throw her up front and luckily we were able to get one with her up there. “She’s one of those kids who will do whatever it takes to help her team win.”
The Lumberjacks’ hopes for a comeback were put to bed just over a minute into the third period when Meredith Boettcher added a crushing fourth for the Hilltoppers. Danica Mark added Marshall’s fifth and final goal in a 5-1 finish.
The Hilltoppers’ win puts them into the Section 7A Finals where they will face No. 1 seed Proctor/Hermantown on Wednesday in Virginia.