Duluth East's Hogan Davidson chips a puck past Cloquet goalie John Scheuer in the second period on Thursday. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net
High school hockey fans in Minnesota are well aware of the countless rivalries that exist throughout the state. Although there is anticipation for the classic rivalries that develop come tourney time – public schools vs. private schools and Metro vs. Northern – the best battles still occur where the loathing comes from proximity and familiarity.
White Bear-Hill; Warroad-Roseau; Hibbing-Virginia – the list goes on and on.
Perhaps the best rivalry out there is the one between Duluth East and Cloquet/Esko/Carlton, two historic Northland powers. Even though the teams are only scheduled to meet twice annually, countless Section 7 tournaments have featured blockbuster showdowns between the Hounds and Lumberjacks – over the years, these teams have ended each other’s season 19 times.
That’s helped intensify the battles from “just another game on the schedule” to what it is now.
“It’s awesome,” said Duluth East blue-liner Meir Moore when asked what it’s like to play in the rivalry. “We get a great showing of fans that come out. It’s great to have our students and parents out here supporting us, and it’s great to win.”
Most of the games have been played in classic old barns, adding another level of mystique to the rivalry. Pine Valley Arena in Cloquet, which is no longer in use, comfortably fit no more than one thousand people. When East came to town, people were hanging from the rafters. At the DECC in Duluth, there were often more spectators packed into the stands than UMD would get for a college game. Of course, the DECC has since been replaced with Amsoil Arena.
While the venues may have changed, the moods that are stimulated when the squads meet remains the same.
“Huge rivalry, cross-town, it’s heated, fights, the crowds into it… it’s just awesome,” said Hounds’ forward Kyle Campion.
The memories and mindsets aren’t limited to the players and coaches, either. Ask any student or fan from one of the schools to recount their memories of the rivalry and you’re likely to get a countless number responses.
“Full houses. Fights on the ice between the players and outside the arenas between the fans. Grudging respect between the two teams,” said one Duluth East fan when asked about his memories and feelings on the rivalry. “There isn’t a team we’d rather beat, and Cloquet fans feel the same.”
Added a Lumberjacks fan when asked the same question: “The towns and schools get such pride from coming out on top in these games. We’ve both had our big wins and heartbreaking losses, obviously. But those results have such an impact on what we think of the season.”
“We could play .500 hockey during the year, but if we beat East, it’s a lot easier to take.”
Sure, the magnitude of the games may differ, but the back-and-forth chants, the defining sounds of the band and the screams every time a team carries the puck over the offensive blue line will always be present.
The Hounds and Lumberjacks renewed the rivalry with their first meeting of the 2011-12 season on Thursday at the Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet. Duluth East won the game convincingly by a 7-0 score, but the atmosphere was still electric.
Even with all the displeasure between the teams, there is an unspoken – albeit omnipresent – respect between them.
Duluth East and Cloquet/Esko/Carlton next meet on Monday, Feb. 6, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Fast start helps Hounds
Duluth East players and coaches weren’t happy with their start last Friday against White Bear Lake, and they addressed that in practice over the weekend.
The Hounds have made it a point to start fast, and in their two games this week (at Lakeville North on Tuesday and against Cloquet tonight), East has jumped on their opponents right out of the gate.
“It’s all in the way we mentally prepare for the game,” junior defenseman Meirs Moore said. “We’re a little more relaxed [before the games], and it pays off on the ice. That’s a big focus for us, that first shift.”
The Hounds outshot the Lumberjacks 20-2 in the opening period on Thursday, a clear indicator of their attitude coming into the contest.
Third line rotates centers, doesn’t miss a beat
It’s well documented that the Hounds have a deep squad this year, and that was very evident on Thursday. East rolled three lines and all of their blue-liners without any drop-off.
The third line rotated centers Steven Holappa and Kyle Campion between wingers Domenick Bergeland and Hogan Davidson all night. Even with the rotation of centers, the line was dominant against the Jacks.
“It’s kind of a muck line – just put together,” Campion said. “I think we flowed good tonight. We worked hard, got the puck in deep and went to work.”
Added head coach Mike Randolph: “They just have been playing really well, and they’re working really hard and getting offensive zonetime. When our third line is playing like that, we’re a pretty tough team to beat.”
1. Dom Toninato, Duluth East
Toninato scored twice and had five points, but he could have easily had four or five goals. All night long the big, speedy forward created great plays with his wheels and hands, putting pressure on the Cloquet defensemen.
2. Jake Randolph, Duluth East
We know Randolph is one of the best passers in the State, but he is also showing he’s got an uncommon nose for the net. The senior captain added another hat trick to his impressive high school résumé, notching a goal in each period.
3. Duluth East defense
The Hounds were great in the offensive zone, thanks largely to the play of their blue-liners. Not only did the Duluth East defense quarterback the offensive attack with stellar passing in the zone, but they were also quick in transition, made smart plays with the puck and kept Cloquet to only seven shots through two periods.
The line of Dom Toninato, Jake Randolph and Ryan Lundgren combined for 12 points, Dylan Parker made 14 saves and the top-ranked Duluth East Greyhounds shutout rival Cloquet 7-0 on Thursday, Dec. 15, at Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet.
The Hounds dominated the game from start to finish, outshooting the Lumberjacks 51-14 for the night. East put 20 shots on net in both the first and second periods before mustering 11 in a third period that was mostly running time.
Randolph recorded another hat trick, scoring goals in each period. Toninato had two tallies, while Phil Beaulieu and Hogan Davidson each had single goals for Duluth East, who improves to 7-0-0 on the year.
A back-and-forth opening five minutes, which saw both teams get quality scoring chances, turned into a Hounds passing display late in the first.
Toninato opened the scoring 13 minutes, 31 seconds into the game when he tapped a perfect cross-crease pass from Randolph in over John Scheuer’s glove. Randolph made it 2-0 before the end of the first period, giving the Hounds plenty of cushion.
Davidson and Randolph scored four minutes apart early in the second to extend East’s lead to 4-0, blowing the game open and shifting the play to a more physical, chippy battle.
A scrum at the end of the middle frame left three players in the box for each squad, but really had little impact on the game.
Third-period goals by Beaulieu, Randolph and Toninato topped off the Duluth East victory, the Hounds’ seventh-straight win over Cloquet. The Lumberjacks last won in the 2008 7AA section tournament.
Duluth East’s Meirs Moore had two assists, while teammates Dom Bergeland, Conner Valesano and Beau Hughes all had one.
Scheuer made 44 saves in the loss, but played very well for long stretches in the contest. The Jacks fall to 5-3-0 on the season.
Both teams are off until next week; Cloquet/Esko/Carlton will skate with Ashland (Wis.) on Tuesday in Cloquet, and Duluth East is off until Thursday when they host Centennial in their final tune-up prior to the Schwan Cup.