It was a packed house in Cloquet as fans came to see one of the biggest rivalries in the northland -- and state, for that matter -- on Thursday, Dec. 16., as Duluth East skated to a 4-0 triumph over Cloquet/Esko/Carlton.
Tensions ran high as the two teams knew there were Section 7AA seeding implications on the line.
“Obviously it’s a big game, but it’s just a regular season game,” said C-E-C captain Jack McFarlane, “Everybody might be juiced up a little bit more, but you’ve got to stayed composed.”
As expected both teams came out skating strong and the bodies were flying early.
Duluth East took an early shot advantage midway through the first period by 8-1, so it wasn’t a surprise when the Greyhounds scored the first goal of the game. The Phil Beaulieu goal came with 11:23 left in the period, and it would stand to be the game winner.
“We came out and we were turning the puck over,” McFarlane said. “We turned it over a few times and they capitalized on it. It’s not the goalie’s fault; he played good, we just didn’t give him good support.”
The Lumberjacks killed a Nolan Meyer high sticking penalty shortly after allowing the first goal, then nearly evened the shot total, which was 11-8 in favor of Duluth East at the end of the period.
After the Meyer penalty the Lumberjacks got a power play of their own off of a Steven Holappa slashing penalty. The power play would not go as planned as Dom Toninato intercepted a pass deep in the Duluth East zone and shot the puck up to a streaking Trevor Olson. Olson got a breakaway opportunity and he cashed in on it. It would be one of two shorthanded goals for Olson on the night.
“We believe in a philosophy of if you see an opening to go on offense,” Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said. “They’re always looking for a chance to go on offense when we’re shorthanded, and Trevor Olson reacted when he saw an opening.”
With just 48 seconds left in the period Holappa netted the Greyhounds’ third goal of the period to take a 3-0 lead into the locker room.
“We’re trying to play until February, and tonight they were better than us in every facet of the game,” C-E-C head coach Dave Esse said of his team’s performance. “Being down three to nothing in the first period is a killer no matter who you’re playing. They’re up in the A level right now, and we’re in the C level.”
The Lumberjacks made some adjustments between the first two periods and came out strong in the second period.
“We said if you don’t go out there and perform they will put you into running time in your own building in front of a lot of people,” Esse said. “They rallied and worked hard out there, but obviously it wasn’t good enough.”
Duluth East held a two-goal lead in on of the teams' meetings last season, and Cloquet/Esko/Carlton eventually tied it up. This was in the back of the minds of the Greyhounds players, and they didn’t want history to repeat.
“We came out last year and they tied it up, so we told ourselves we need to focus and get ready for the third period and we came out and won the period,” Olson said.
The lone goal of the third period came on a Greyhounds' penalty kill. East’s Olson got another breakaway and scored his second shorthanded goal of the night to give the Greyhounds a 4-0 lead with just over ten minutes left in the game.
“It’s a big win for us” Coach Randolph said. “We’ve got a lot of young kids on this team, and I didn’t know how they were going to respond to this environment, but they know the rivalry goes way back so I thought we had a good, solid game.”
“It’s always a great win to beat the 'Jacks,” said East’s Olson. “It’s hard to come up here and play Cloquet, but we came up here and we played our best.”
After the final buzzer sounded a small brawl broke out along the boards near the Duluth East net. Many players were involved. Punches were thrown and full-body tackles were made. The fight ended relatively quicklu and East celebrated in front of the net before the two teams shook hands.
“It’s just hockey. It’s the end of the game and the fans are getting into it cheering ‘fight, fight, fight,’ ” Esse said. “I was proud of our guys though. They cleared the bench, our guys stayed in the neutral zone. Our guys were disciplined and my coaches did a good job of keeping them back.”
Duluth East head coach Mike Randolph felt a little differently about the situation:
“I think that was more them, they had a couple of their guys take a few runs in the corner,” Coach Randolph said. “We’re going to stand up for each other as they’re going to stand up for each other, but it’s just an unfortunate thing to happen at the end of the game.”
1. Trevor Olson, Duluth East
Olson scored two goals for the Greyhounds, both of which were shorthanded, in a big game rivalry at Cloquet. Olson now has 17 points on the season, seven of which are goals.
2. JoJo Jeanetta, Duluth East
Jeanetta stopped 22 shots en route to a shutout against Cloquet to give East at 4-0 win. This win also pushes East’s record up to 5-1 overall. This is East’s second shutout of the season and Jeanetta’s first. His save percentage on the season is now at .949 percent.
3. Dom Toninato, Duluth East
Toninato had two assists in the game, one of which was the game winner and the other was to Olson for his first shorthanded goal of the game. Toninato now has 15 points on the season, six of which are goals.