Lumberjacks stop Warriors, advance to state final

by Pete Waggoner

St. Paul, MN - The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton (CEC) Lumberjacks fought off the challenge of the Warroad Warriors by a score of 5-3 to advance to the the Class A Championship game on Saturday afternoon.  With the win, it completes a five-year build for the CEC program that has developed a skilled and and effective team. 

Senior forward Taylor Nelson factored in all five Lumberjack goals collecting (3g-2a) to help lead her team to the win. Nelson now has (47g-32a-79pts) on the season and has committed to play college hockey at Bemidji State.  

After capturing a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Warriors (22-5-2) fought back with a pair of goals in the second period by junior forwards Geno Hendrickson and Sydney Phaneuf sending the game to the third period.  Nelson completed the hat trick at 1:09 of the third and their second lead of the game.  

Warroad would push back and tie the game at 3 on a goal by senior forward Hannah Corneliuson after the ensuing faceoff just seconds later.  The moment it felt as though Warroad had leveled the game for the second time, the Lumberjacks pushed back and found a way.  They used some luck along the way that included a puck that caromed off the glass behind the Warroad net. 

As the Warriors sophomore goaltender Kendra Nordick waited for the puck to take the carom it ordinarily would, it took an Xcel Energy Center bounce off the glass and took a detour toward the top of the goaltenders shoulder bouncing off it and into the back of the net for the Lumberjack 4-3 lead. Senior Kiana Bender was the goal scorer. 

“That’s an NHL rink,” Warrior head coach Dave Mavin said after the game.  “You don’t usually see that one in normal rinks.  I think it’s the glass, what do you do?  I didn’t think the puck went our way in the second period either but that was a back-breaker there.”

Senior Kiana Bender said,  “When I missed that first, I was like, dang it and then when I saw it jump up and trickle over, I was like please go in, please go in because I’ve seen that before in the state tournament last year so, I was really excited when it went in.”

While the second period was good for the Warriors, it was the first and third for the Lumberjacks that was the difference in the game. 

“You can’t give good teams extra opportunities and they capitalized,”  Marvin said. “We didn’t play well enough to win, they played better than us and we know that.  You’ve got to play 51 minutes to move on and we didn’t do that and you have to do that against good teams.”

When scoring first, the Lumberjacks are now 23-0.  By capturing the lead and never relinquishing it to Warroad, the Warriors were forced to chase the game.  

Making the tournament is one thing for any team and it is a whole other when needing to build the program.  Olin reflected on the build that was required just to field a team as numbers were declining, let alone producing a state title contending team. 

“We’ve been working the last five years to really grow our numbers and you look at  five years ago, we had 4 JV players.  We were going to the middle school and asking kids if they knew what hockey was and if they do want to come out.  We literally had players we had to buy gear for to come out for JV.  We worked really hard to try to grow numbers.  So you look at five years from now, playing for a championship game is certainly going to help that.  We are so fortunate enough to have such a great community.  You look at it and it speaks to itself,  we had five send offs.  There are some programs that don’t even have any.”

For the Lumberjacks (27-3-0) their resume is long and impressive.  Handing the Warriors their first loss to a Class A team is a good start.  Next on the agenda is the two-time defending state champion Breck Mustangs.