Cloquet junior forward Landon Langenbrunner celebrates a short-handed goal during Friday night's 4-3 victory at Eden Prairie. Langenbrunner finished with a pair of goals. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
An exuberant mood overflowed from the visiting team corridor Friday night at the Eden Prairie Community Center.
A crowd gathered down the hallway from a satisfied locker room raging with cheer. As the Lumberjacks exited to meet stacks of pizza boxes and dozens of grateful supporters, they carried their bags into a cold night and onto a bus headed north with only the confidence that a 4-3 victory over the host Eagles can deliver.
Perhaps they found had something they had been chasing all season.
“For us, all season, the issue has been consistency,” said junior forward Landon Langenbrunner, who finished with two goals. “Now it feels like we are starting to pull together, and it’s making a big difference in how we play.”
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, ranked No. 16 in the Class 2A coaches’ poll, survived an early onslaught from Eden Prairie, and rallied to score a pair of third-period goals to top the No. 14-2A Eagles, despite being outshot 39-29.
Langenbrunner (18-13-31), the team’s leading scorer, netted a power-play goal as well as a short-hander for the Lumberjacks, while sophomore goalie Owen Carlson kept a lid on things at the other end by stopping 36 shots.
“Goaltenders are there for a reason, to win you games,” coach Kevin Smalley said. “They need to save the pucks they should, and they need to save the pucks they shouldn’t. That’s goaltending, and you don’t have it every night. But when you get it and you have a team playing well in front of you, then you have a good chance against anybody.”
The team is implementing what it has learned, both from practice and in-game experience, according to Carlson.
“I think the big thing is trust,” he said. “If we keep trusting and believing in each other, then it’s going to keep coming together and we are going to continue to find ways to win games.”
Cloquet (11-5-1, 2-0-0) has admittedly been a team fighting for consistency, as well as learning to work with a new coaching staff. Smalley is in his first season after moving over from Duluth Denfeld -- and perhaps a portion of the season was spent fighting through injuries and working to get on the same page.
This week helps tell the story of a team chasing its first trip to state since 2008. In a competitive Section 7AA, the Lumberjacks stumbled against Andover (No. 13-2A), but topped Duluth Marshall (No. 8-2A) and then Eden Prairie (No. 14-2A).
“We’ve come a long ways in the past couple weeks,” Smalley said. “We’re at a point where, earlier in the year on the road, we would let something like this get away from us. Especially in the last week, since the Andover game, we’ve kind of re-committed, and certainly the guys are playing much better.”
Langenbrunner agrees that Friday was another step in the right direction.
“Earlier in the season, we were in games with tons of chances and opportunities, but we would commit a stupid mistake here and there, and it cost us,” Langenbrunner said. “We’re learning to finish.”
Eden Prairie forward Ryan Lesko delivers a hit on Cloquet defenseman Bryan Broten during the second period Friday night. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
Landon Langenbrunner finished with a pair of goals and sophomore goaltender Owen Carlson finished with 37 saves to help push Cloquet-Esko-Carlton past host Eden Prairie 4-3 Friday night.
The Lumberjacks, ranked No. 16 in the Class 2A coaches’ poll, rallied with a pair of third-period goals to etch out the victory, despite being outshot 39-29.
No. 14-2A Eden Prairie scored first when John Mittelstadt buried a wrist shot three minutes into the game, but the Lumberjacks' Dane Stoyanoff answered three minutes later. The game remained tied 1-1 through the second period.
In the third, Langenbrunner scored on the power play 24 seconds in, and Cloquet (11-5-1, 2-0-0) would not trail again.
Sophomore goalie Ben Bullis finished with 23 saves on 27 shots for Eden Prairie (5-8-1, 0-1-0).
Eden Prairie junior forward Spencer Rudrud finished with a goal in the Eagles' 4-3 loss to Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Friday. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
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