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Power Line

02/11/2012, 12:42am CST
By Justin Magill, MN Hockey Hub staff

Cloquet's top line does its damage to the Ponies

It might be a simple plan to figure out, but executing it is another story.

Cloquet/Esko/Carlton's top line of Karson Kuhlman, Westin Michaud and Beau Michaud have put up impressive numbers all season and they added to it in the Lumberjacks 4-2 victory against Stillwater on Saturday, Feb. 11 at the St. Croix Rec Center.

Kuhlman's two goals gives him 27 on the season and 54 points on the year, both team leads for the sophomore.

"There were a lot of people that said he wouldn't even get 25 points,"
Cloquet coach David Esse said. "Now you look and see he has about 54 points on the season."

With Westin and Beau Michaud's natural chemistry, Kuhlman stepped in and has made the most of the ride with the brothers as the line combined for 154 points.

"It has been a lot of fun," Kuhlman said. "Playing with the Michaud brothers, it has been a dream come true."

"We all have the same goals," Westin said. "We work hard all the time because we want to get to state and we know we have to get better and that just drives us."

All three were a driving force against the Ponies.

Already a dangerous trio even strength, Stillwater would find out how much more difficult Cloquet's top line can be on the power play.

Three of the four Lumberjack goals came with the man-advantage, with two coming from the top line, which also is part of the No. 1 power play unit.

Just six seconds into Rob Click's penalty, Westin chipped in a shot past Ponies' goalie, Blake Cates, which gave the Lumberjacks their first lead of the game.

Assisting on Westin's goal was his brother Beau.

Kuhlman scored the first of his two goals in the third period. The first was a power play tally, where he used a play often conducted by a savvy veteran, banking a shot off the goalie from behind the net.

Assisting on the goal was none other than his two linemates, Westin and Beau.

"You give those guys that many chances on the power play, they are going to hurt you," Ponies coach, Phil Housley said. "They have a lot of talent on that one line."

After the first few power play's that were more out of sync, once Westin got his, the systems that the Lumberjacks run went a lot smoother.

"You have to give them credit because they were great on the kill," Westin said. "We had troubles with our power play all year and it was like that for a while today, but we were able to keep getting chances and even if you're struggling, you have to score with that many chances."

For good measure and some insurance, Kuhlman scored his second, battling in front and eventually getting the puck by Cates.

His final goal of the regular season gave him eighth multi-goal games on the season.

To no surprise, Westin and Beau with the assists.

"We have been playing together for a long time," Kuhlman said. "The chemistry we have is there and it's a good time to have it because we are about to play some really good teams."

"They've been playing really well all season," Esse said. "Teams know they have to stop them, but they get the job done and it's just impressive to watch because you know that the teams we play against, all they are trying to do is stop them."

Gearing Up For Sections

For a majority of teams throughout the state, the regular season concludes next week.

Not for Cloquet/Esko/Carlton.

Its regular season ended in Stillwater on Saturday, Feb. 11, and will now have to wait for nearly two weeks to begin playing again.

So the regular season finale was not just the typical one that most teams will be experiencing next weekend.

Cloquet had to and needed to finish off well to have the right mindset heading into what is going to be some lengthy time off.

"It was big for to not only win, but to play well," Lumberjacks forward, Westin Michaud said. "Give Stillwater some credit, they killed off a lot of penalties and made it tough for us to build a big lead or anything like that.

"Playing a team like this and the way the game went was important for our team."

To keep practices interesting, Cloquet will work on just about everything it can do to replicate what an actual game will be like.

"We will be scrimmaging ourselves quite a bit," Westin said. "There will be some fun competition and our coach will have the scrimmages be played just like a game."

"You have to do that because if you do the same thing over and over again, your players might not react the way you want them for the real game," Lumberjacks coach David Esse said. "It's our job as a coaching staff to have this team prepared for sections, otherwise we fail them and the organization."

To many teams, a layoff like the one Cloquet is going to experience, could be detrimental to a team that just built some confidence after an impressive regular season finale.

This is not the case for Cloquet, which will use the extra days off to recover from injuries and what is more prevalent, illness.

Prior to the Lumberjacks win against Stillwater, the Junior Varsity team played and lost to the Ponies 10-0.

There were only 10 skaters suited up for Cloquet.

"It might come at a good time for us, because we have a few guys that are out sick and others might have an injury that they can use that time for," Esse said.  "We will keep practices upbeat and fun, but there are going to be guys that are going to use that time off to get better before sections start."

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

Cloquet/Esko/Carlton's top line of Karson Kuhlman, Westin Michaud and Beau Michaud accounted for three of their teams four goals as the Lumberjacks defeated Stillwater 4-2 on Saturday, Feb. 11 at the St. Croix Rec Center.

Billy Wagner got the Ponies on the board in the first period, scoring on a rebound that found his stick near the left circle.

Adam Hanson tied it up for Cloquet and once that happened, the Lumberjacks top line went to work.

Westin gave Cloquet its first lead of the game, beating Ponies goalie, Blake Cates right off the face off for a power play goal, with Westin's brother, Beau, credited with the assist.

Kuhlman extended the lead to 3-1 in the third with a power play goal of his own, scoring from behind the net after Beau's shot from the slot, went over the net.

Alertly, Kuhlman threw the puck out front where it deflected off Cates' legs and into the net.

Connor Danford pulled Stillwater within one, when he picked up a loose puck in front of the Lumberjacks net, made a quick move by goalie John Scheuer, and deposited the puck into the net.

One minute, 9 seconds later, Kuhlman answered and put the lead back to two, scoring among a mad scramble in front of the Ponies net.

Cloquet ends the regular season with a 17-8-0 record and will have to wait until Section 7AA play begins for its next game.

Stillwater drops to 11-10-2 on the year and will take on Forest Lake on Thursday, Feb. 16 in Forest Lake.

1. Karson Kuhlman, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton
His two goals were big ones for the Lumberjacks. One was the eventual game-winner and the second was one that provided some extra insurance, which looked like it was needed , because Stillwater brought everything it could in the closing minutes of the game. Kuhlman has feasted on Suburban East teams this season. In three games, he has five goals, all of them being important factors in three wins against the conference.

2. Westin Michaud, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton
A goal and two assists lands Westin the second star. On his goal, he was assisted by his brother, Beau, but more importantly, it gave the Lumberjacks their first lead of the game and even more confidence for a power play that has struggled all season, but found its groove against the Ponies.

3. Beau Michaud, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton
The other piece to the top line of the Lumberjacks had three assists and plenty of chances to notch a goal himself. He was a key to the power play, setting up in the slot position, where he helped set up Kuhlman's first goal. Beau also won a big face off in the second period, where he was able to get the puck to his brother for an easy tap-in goal.

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Micah Miller leaps to the fans after scoring the game winner.

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