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Girls hockey preview: Lumberjacks try to reload from the net

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Days earlier, Kiminski had been in contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19, so Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s second goalkeeper had to keep an eye on her situation as well. She was fine and showing no signs, no cough, no sore throat, nothing until that Sunday.

I went to my kitchen to eat, and I didn’t smell it, Kiminski said. I couldn’t taste the pickle or anything, and they’re very strong, so I was like, Uh-oh.

Kiminski went to MedExpress Urgent Care in Cloquet, where she received the last test of the day, a quick test, and about 15 minutes later she was told she had COVID-19.

The loggers started practicing the next day and Kiminski was unable to come.

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RELATED: Girls Hockey: Mustangs skate past Lumberjacks to earn their third title in a row

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CEC attacker Dana Jones (right) (4) skates with the puck while attacker Keelee Grashorn (7) follows her during an exercise on Tuesday, January 12 at Cloquet Area Recreation Center.  (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

CEC attacker Dana Jones (right) (4) skates with the puck while attacker Keelee Grashorn (7) follows her during an exercise on Tuesday, January 12 at Cloquet Area Recreation Center. (Tyler Schank / [email protected])

I was very upset and sad because this season is already short, and I got cut off for about three weeks, Kiminski said. I’m just glad I got it before I got to the team and cut it off them.

The lumberjacks will open the season against Duluth at the Essentia Health Heritage Center on Friday, January 15, 7pm. Freshman Torrie Lane is expected to start in the net until Kiminski returns.

After quarantine, Kiminski is expected to return to her teammates on January 21 and be able to play against Eveleth-Gilbert that evening.

The presence of Kiminskis could make a big difference to a CEC team that needs to fill big skates.

The Lumberjacks lost 68% of their last season’s score with the graduation of their top line from a team that turned 27-4, finishing as a Minnesota Class A runner-up. That line included News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year Taylor Nelson, a Bemidji State hockey recruit with a Northland-best 47 goals and 32 assists for 79 points, as well as Minnesota Duluth softball recruits Kiana Bender (34-2761) and center Dea DeLeon (7-3441).

Its a known challenge we’ve come to, said Lumberjacks coach Courtney Olin. One of the things that we were really focused on at the beginning of the training was just shooting. We know we may not have the same skill level as last season, so we should adjust our game and the way we play a bit.

CEC forward from left: Lily Hanson (9), Ashtyn Schneberger (28) and Taylor Wick (10) work on face-offs during practice Tuesday, Jan. 12 at Cloquet Area Recreation Center.  (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

CEC forward from left: Lily Hanson (9), Ashtyn Schneberger (28) and Taylor Wick (10) work on face-offs during practice Tuesday, Jan. 12 at Cloquet Area Recreation Center. (Tyler Schank / [email protected])

We looked at the bigger picture and hopefully compete at the end if we are lucky enough to have some playoffs. The first few weeks will be an adjustment period as we have a lot of new players in big roles, but hopefully we will continue to adapt and compete when it comes down to it.

Olin expects Proctor-Hermantown, second in last year’s Section 7A, to be the team to beat.

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton has been proud of itself since the program began and this year’s team could have that old familiar look of lower-scoring matches, with the Lumberjacks’ focus starting at their own net and working their way.

That’s a good place to start if you have Kiminski, who went 17-3 last season with a 0.897 serve, 1.95 goals against the average and a few shutouts. Kiminski split time in the net with senior Lauren Maslowski before Kiminski took over in the Section 7A playoffs, stopping 52 of the 55 shots she faced in three playoff games for a 0.945 and 1.08 serve percentage GAA as she led the Lumberjacks to their first state tournament since 2009.

For Kiminski, the Lumberjacks have one of the areas that is a better defender in junior Tenley Stewart and on-going eighth grade defender Emma Parks.

CEC hockey head coach Courtney Olin (left) provides direction before doing a drill during practice on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at Cloquet Area Recreation Center.  (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

CEC hockey head coach Courtney Olin (left) provides direction before doing a drill during practice on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at Cloquet Area Recreation Center. (Tyler Schank / [email protected])

We will certainly be a lot more defensive this year, said junior forward Dana Jones. It will be great to have Araya back. She brings so much to the team. She was so young last year, but what she brought was amazing. It’s incredible what she could do in the future. She has so much potential, and knowing she’s got three more years, it’s crazy to think about it.

While Jones (7/10/17) didn’t fetch massive numbers last year, expect that output to increase as they hit the Lumberjacks No. 1-line plays with junior winger Marina Dostal and senior center Lauren Sertich, the granddaughter of former UMD men’s hockey coach Mike Sertich.

While COVID limited indoor training, Jones said she and a few of her teammates would kick it old-fashioned, skating on frozen local lakes like Big Lake and Chub. Par for the course for CEC.

We would just keep working hard, and it will come with time, Jones said. If we just keep working hard for each other on the ice, make those goals. I know hard work can take you beyond talent, sometimes we can always count on hard work.

CEC forward Ashtyn Schneberger (28) and defender Eve Eugenis (23) skate after the puck during a practice session Tuesday, January 12 at Cloquet Area Recreation Center.  (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

CEC forward Ashtyn Schneberger (28) and defender Eve Eugenis (23) skate after the puck during a practice session Tuesday, January 12 at Cloquet Area Recreation Center. (Tyler Schank / [email protected])

That is the rock the Lumberjacks have built their program on, and it will be the mantra they continue to teach their players.

No doubt this season will feel different, but it shouldn’t look very different on the ice. Olin said everyone will always wear masks, walk up the rink, walk out, on the bus, in the locker room, and while playing.

Since Cloquet is currently doing distance learning, the team must come to the ice rink in full gear and uniform. Put on the skates and helmets and then hit the ice for training and competitions. The locker room and coaches are assigned seats, and the team is limited to 10-15 minutes in the locker room. They also cannot keep equipment in it, which means that players can no longer keep their equipment on the rink.

We were essentially in and out, Olin said.

Despite all these rules and regulations, Olin said, make no mistake, her team is ecstatic about getting back on the ice, as are, presumably, teams across the state of hockey.

The girls hit the ice while running like it was a competition, Olin said of the teams’ first practice. Everyone was just really excited. Everyone was so happy to be back on the ice and to have that chance to play. It was like waking up on Christmas morning as a little kid, and that energy has not died out in any way. At least we just continued with excitement for Friday.

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