Duluth East's Alex Toscano (23) and Joey Marinac (9) celebrate with goalie Dylan Parker after Monday night's win. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net
It doesn’t take much time or a trained eye to notice the puck skills that Duluth East junior defenseman Phil Beaulieu possesses. Beaulieu has great hands, allowing him to dangle his way up the ice or out of trouble with little more than a turn of the wrists.
He’s also got a quick release and good touch, allowing him to send tape-to-tape passes over or under sticks.
“Phil is really good with the puck and he makes good passes,” said teammate Jack Forbort after Beaulieu had two assists in Duluth East’s 3-2 win over Cloquet/Esko/Carlton on Monday night. “You know he’s going to make a good play [with the puck]. He’s a rink rat.”
Rink rat is probably a mild term when it comes to Beaulieu, who spends most of his time away from the indoor rinks at the ones of the outdoor variety. On Sundays, Beaulieu isn’t watching football; he’s at Glen Avon, a neighborhood rink in Duluth, playing in pick up games or just working on individual skills.
He’s been sticking to that routine for years.
“There are so many outdoor rinks in Duluth, it’s great,” Beaulieu said. “You can go out there and get in a nice, big pick up game and stay out there for six hours, too. We had a rink in our backyard for seven years, too, and that helped a lot with my development. I’d go out there and skate with my dad, he’s a big rink rat, and it was special to skate with him.”
Beaulieu’s development into a two-way defenseman and his adjustment into the Duluth East system has taken some getting used to, though. Now in his third year as a mainstay on the ‘Hounds varsity, Beaulieu has to continually remind himself that he’s not at the outdoor rinks.
He says he has a tendency to become a little “rink rat-ish” during games, but if that’s the biggest downfall, coach Mike Randolph won’t be complaining.
“Phil has come a long ways since getting here,” Randolph said. “He hasn’t played defense very long, and his game just continues to grow with his hard work as he learns the position. The biggest thing with Phil is that you have to remind him sometimes that he’s not on the pond.
"But when he’s on his game, he’s as good as anyone out there.”
When the Greyhounds found themselves down 2-0 early in the first period, they didn’t panic. Instead, they clawed in and got back to their systems.
Duluth East got its cycle going, worked the puck around the zone and was able to knot the score before the end of the opening period on goals by Ryan Lundgren and Meirs Moore.
But that’s been the story for the ‘Hounds a lot this year – starting slow before turning it on and finishing strong.
“[Tonight] was just like the last few games,” forward Jack Forbort said. “We haven’t realty been starting well lately. We just kind of go back to playing defense first what that happens, and we’ve been doing that well all year. When we get back to that, that’s when we’ve been successful.”
That lockdown defensive play was especially evident in the final period, when Duluth East controlled play and limited Cloquet’s chances while clinging to a one-goal lead.
“We stuck to it and the kids found a way to get it done,” coach Mike Randolph said. “I thought we really played a solid, playoff-type third. I’m really happy with that.”
Duluth East power play stays hot
Since Randolph made an adjustment to the power-play setup, switching the system to the umbrella and moving Forbort and Beaulieu to the other sides of the rink, Duluth East’s power play has been clicking at a ridiculous rate.
Ridiculous as in it hasn’t been held scoreless since.
“We’ve scored on every power play since then,” Forbort said after the ‘Hounds scored two more times on the man-advantage against Cloquet. “We were three-for-three against Minnetonka, didn’t have any [power plays] against Lakeville South and had two goals tonight. Everyone is liking it and it’s working.”
The new system has opened up options for everyone on the power-play unit, especially Forbort, Beaulieu and Meirs Moore. It really allows for the players to get creative and adjust on the fly, too.
Against Cloquet, it was an in game read that ended up making the difference.
On their second power play of the night, the ‘Hounds worked the puck around the zone, eventually getting it to Beaulieu at the right circle. He walked to the middle and made a quick decision.
“I knew [Cloquet] was covering me and Meirs at the point pretty well, so I waited a little bit, got them to come to me and just threw it at the net,” he said.
Beaulieu’s shot was tipped off the post and in by teammate Alex Toscano, putting Duluth East ahead for good.
“It was a great tip by Toscano,” Beaulieu said. “Perfect play.”
Ryan Lundgren, Meirs Moore and Alex Toscano scored to give Duluth East a 3-2 comeback win against rival Cloquet/Esko/Carlton on Monday, Feb. 4, at the Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet.
It was Duluth East’s 10th win in a row against Cloquet dating back to the 2007-08 season.
The Lumberjacks jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead before the 10-minute mark of the first period on Tanner Robideaux and Beau Michuad goals.
Robideaux scored 5 minutes, 42 seconds in on a quick shot from the point after a clean draw win by Westin Michaud to Duluth East goalie Dylan Parker’s left. Then almost four minutes later, Beau Michaud took a pass from Westin and sent a laser over Parker’s blocker.
But that’s when the Greyhounds settled in.
Lundgren took a pass from Toscano at the edge of the crease and beat CEC goalie Zack Strom to cut the lead in half at the 11:18 mark. After the Jacks took a penalty, Moore scored from the point just 41 seconds later to knot the score before the first intermission.
Toscano tipped a Phil Beaulieu shot past Strom 2 minutes, 34 seconds into the middle period to put Duluth East out front for good.
Parker turned away 20 shots in the victory, while Beaulieu and Jack Forbort each had two assists.
Strom made 24 saves for Cloquet.
The Jacks (12-7-2) are back in action tomorrow night in a 7AA showdown with Andover.
The Hounds (18-4-0) are in Lakeville to play Lakeville North on Thursday night.
Duluth East defenseman Phil Beaulieu (25) knocks Cloquet/Esko/Carlton's Westin Michaud (17) off the puck during Monday's game in Cloquet. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net
1. Phil Beaulieu, Duluth East
The junior defenseman played a sound 200-foot game on Monday, making tons of good plays in the offensive zone and just as many smart plays in his own end. Beaulieu had two assist, at least five shots on net and a few big blocks to help the ‘Hounds come away with the win.
2. Alex Toscano, Duluth East
Toscano did a good job to utilize his size and strength in the offensive zone, and it paid dividends in the form of a goal and an assist. On the first East goal, Toscano made a great pass from behind the net to set up Ryan Lundgren, then on the game-winner, he used his size to screen the goalie and his stick to tip a Beaulieu shot off the pipe and in.
3. Drew Dincau, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton
Dincau has emerged as a solid two-way defender, but his solid play in his own end is really what benefits the Jacks the most. He did a good job of clearing bodies in front of Zack Strom, was strong along the walls and made good, clean breakout passes to get Cloquet out of trouble.