Andover sophomore goaltender Chase Perry (35) was named the Heritage Classic tournament most valuable player following the Huskies' 3-2 overtime victory against Cloquet/Esko/Carlton (Photos by Tim Kolehmainen).
Midway through the third period in the Heritage Classic championship against Andover Thursday night, Dec. 29, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton started shortening its bench. It had to be an easy call for Lumberjacks’ coach David Esse -- get his high-powered trio of Karson Kuhlman and Beau and Westin Michaud as much ice as possible while trying to break a tie.
The Huskies are built a bit differently. According to co-coach Mark Manney, they run three balanced lines, each of which can score, although perhaps not with the frequency of the Lumberjacks’ K-M-M line. Heading into the game, Andover’s first and third lines had scored 14 goals each and the second line had pumped in 21.
So it may have been a surprise that Andover’s “top line” of Calvin Rak, Jared McComber and Tyler Jokinen not only matched up with their C-E-C counterparts, but actually outdid them. The unsung trio combined to score the game-winner in overtime, giving the Huskies (7-4-0) a 3-2 victory and the tournament title over Cloquet/Esko/Carlton (9-4-0).
“They’re big and physical, but they’re also fast. We felt like if we could get it low, we could create a turnover,” said Manney. “Of course, what we were afraid of was throwing a blind pass out front once we got the turnover and sending those guys the other way on an odd-man break.”
“They have a good top line and they’re very fast and move around, but they’re smaller, so you have to put a body on them and slow them down,” said Rak, an unlikely hero who played B-level hockey throughout Andover’s youth ranks before blossoming late.
With 2 minutes, 30 seconds gone in overtime, Andover got that expected turnover deep in the Lumberjacks’ defensive zone. McComber immediately looked for Rak, who one-timed his shot over the shoulder of C-E-C goaltender John Scheurer for the game-winner.
“He always seems to find me. We’ve been playing together for a while,” said Rak of his linemate, who also grew up playing B hockey at the youth level. “He found me right in the middle and I just put it home.”
Rak described McComber as a true playmaker who knows where everyone is on the ice. The third member of the top line, Jokinen, is “fast and uses his legs well,” according to Rak.
Manney doesn’t care about the pedigree of his top line, he just knows he likes the results. Rak (5-10-15) is second on the Huskies in scoring, while Jokinen (6-4-10) and McComber (3-6-9) aren’t far behind.
“They’ve kind of come out of nowhere to lead our team in a lot of ways,” said Manney.
Section test for Huskies
Playing in the big Northwest Suburban Conference, Andover doesn’t get many chances to test itself out of conference play. The Huskies have 21 conference games every year, leaving just three holiday tournament games and one non-conference tilt on their slate.
And with only one Section 7AA opponent in the NWSC (Elk River), Andover likes to maximize its exposure to the northeastern Minnesota-based section. This year, that meant scheduling Duluth East in its one non-conference game – and hoping to run into Cloquet/Esko/Carlton in the Heritage Classic.
“We had a little bit of build-up for this game,” admitted Manney. “We told our kids how important this was for section seeding. We were gripping our sticks a little tight in our first period performance. Once we relaxed and started playing hockey, we got going pretty good.”
Andover erased a one-goal deficit to win in overtime on senior Calvin Rak’s goal, 3-2. Now the Huskies can begin to better plot out where they might fall in the section seeding, as well as perhaps a more important factor.
“It gives us confidence going into sections if we have to play them again,” said sophomore goaltender Chase Perry.
Andover lost twice the Lumberjacks last year, falling in the regular season in a home game and then losing 2-1 in the section quarterfinals.
“Just stay calm and wait for them to do something first and then react to it,” Perry simply explained as his strategy against opposing snipers. It helps that he has a tall frame and good reach, as well as a hybrid style that is difficult to read.
Perry started last year as a freshman and he’s used that experience to have an even better beginning to his sophomore campaign. Through 11 games, he’s posted a 7-4-0 record with a 2.77 goals against average and .913 save percentage.
“He’s such a quiet kid. He’s so humble about it and is such a team guy,” said co-coach Mark Manney.
Senior Calvin Rak scored 2 minutes, 30 seconds into overtime to give Andover a 3-2 victory over Cloquet/Esko/Carlton in the Heritage Classic championship game Thursday, Dec. 29 at the Heritage Center in Duluth.
Following a turnover in the Lumberjacks' defensive zone, Rak one-timed the game-winner off a pass from Tyler Tomberlin. The goal set off a celebration for the Huskies (7-4-0), who paraded the Stanley Cup-like tournament trophy to a small but vocal student section. When the scrum cleared, Rak still had his hands on the prize.
Tyler Jokinen gave Andover a 1-0 lead in the first period, but the Lumberjacks (9-4-0) came back with a pair of goals just 1 minute, 3 seconds apart late in the opening frame to take a 2-1 lead. Westin Michaud and Eric Peterson netted C-E-C's goals. Kyle Gausman netted the game-tying goal five minutes in the third, sending the game to overtime.
Both goaltenders -- Cloquet/Esko/Carlton's John Scheuer and Andover's Chase Perry -- made 31 saves in the game. Perry was named the tournament MVP for his play over the three days.
In addition to returning home with a trophy, the victory was also important from a seeding perspective, as the Huskies have only three other scheduled games against Section 7AA teams (one against Duluth East and twice in Northwest Suburban Conference play against Elk River). Both teams now take a break until resuming regular season play after the New Year's holiday.
1. Calvin Rak, Andover
The senior forward scored the biggest goal of the tournament, taking a perfect centering pass from Jared McComber and one-timing it into the Cloquet/Esko/Carlton net 2 minutes, 30 seconds into overtime. His goal sent the Huskies into a celebration, circling the ice with the replica "Stanley Cup" for winning the Heritage Classic title. But he was more than just the man in the right place at the right time. His hard work and aggressive play helped slow down Cloquet's top line all night long.
2. Chase Perry, Andover
Perry may be just a sophomore, but he played with the calmness of a veteran senior between the pipes the entire tournament. He made 31 saves against the Lumberjacks in the final, including several scrambling stops that kept the game tied in regulation. Perry was also recognized as the tournament MVP.
3. Westin Michaud, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton
It was difficult to pick just one member of Cloquet's top line of Kuhlman and the Michauds, but the Lumberjacks' "other" sophomore sensation gets the nod. He scored the first goal for Cloquet, tying the game at 1-1 in the second period. Michaud also seemed to get his stick on nearly every Andover breakout pass, creating havoc that his linemates joined in.