VIRGINIA — The Virginia/MI-B boys’ hockey team got their second crack at Cloquet-Esko-Carlton in the span of a week Tuesday.
Facing a strong goaltender and an intimidating first line for the Lumberjacks, the Devils failed to solve the challenges presented to them by CEC, falling 5-1.
Virginia’s lone goal in the contest came in the closing seconds as Ryan Manninen pushed one past Lumberjacks goalie Jacob Walsh, rewarding the Devils for a tough, physical contest against a Class AA opponent that played fast and effectively for all 51 minutes.
CEC came out fast from the first puck drop, applying pressure to the V/MI-B defense and goaltender Ian Kangas as soon as they could. While the Devils took some time to get accustomed to the speed of the Lumberjacks, clean play from both sides after that made the game look even in terms of puck possession and shots on goal.
The Lumberjacks grabbed their first goal of the contest just inside the 12:00 mark with CEC senior Brock House firing one past Kangas to make it 1-0 for the visiting team.
Less than a minute later, the Devils found themselves on their first penalty kill of the night after a tripping call that sent Matt Callister into the box for V/MI-B. Virginia held off CEC for the next two minutes — and the rest of the period — but the Lumberjacks kept the pressure on Kangas as they used the last 7 six minutes of play to grab a large lead in shots on goal, 16-8.
Down 1-0 after the first period, things began to tumble downhill for the Blue Devils. Penalty after penalty gave the Lumberjacks a few too many tries on the power play, where they would take advantage three times in the period.
After a Virginia penalty at the 2:22 mark, CEC’s Logan Dushkin needed only seven seconds to get one past Kangas, making it a 2-0 game.
Just over two minutes later, Virginia found themselves again down one man following a charging penalty that put them back on the PK. Dushkin needed 22 seconds this time, as he etched his second goal of the night to make it 3-0 CEC.
Virginia had a pair of power play opportunities of their own in the second period, but couldn’t capitalize on either with one of them being cut short by another Blue Devil penalty.
Cloquet got one last crack at the power play late in the period, with Manninen being sent to the box with just over a minute to play. The Lumberjacks used the man advantage and came away with a goal at 16:53 in the period thanks to the stick of Brayden Tyman.
With two periods in the book, CEC led V/MI-B 4-0 with the Lumberjacks leading in shots 28-17.
CEC etched their final goal of the contest at the 9:53 mark in the third period with Dushkin etching a hat trick on a short handed goal to make it 5-0 Lumberjacks.
The Blue Devils finally lit up their side of the scoreboard late in the third period. With just 10 seconds to go, Manninen (off the pass from Ben Ervin and Braeden Tiedeman) found his way past Walsh, making the final score 5-1 in favor of CEC.
Kangas stopped 33 shots in the loss for Virginia.
On the loss, V/MI-B head coach Cale Finseth gave credit to the Lumberjacks for besting his squad twice in one week.
“We knew coming in that Cloquet has a very good goaltender and a very strong first line that can move the puck and drive hard to the net,” Finseth said after the game. “We knew we had to take care of that first line and stay out of the penalty box. In the second period, we didn’t do that and that’s three goals right there.”
On his own team, Finseth couldn’t fault his team for a lack of effort. Instead, he offered up things they can work on as a result of the loss.
“We’ve talked to the guys a lot about taking care of the puck. We know they’re working hard out on the ice but they’re being careless at times with the puck. There are opportunities where we’re regrouping where we can move the puck up the ice but we can’t catch a pass. That’s all about focus and it's something we can work on in practice.
“They don’t need to be taught how to work hard or how to compete because they’re definitely doing that out on the ice. Comparing our two games with Cloquet to our one last week with Eveleth, we competed a lot harder against them than we did last Thursday so that’s good to see.”
That effort and will to compete felt more necessary than ever against CEC considering how fast they came out in the first period.
“They came out jumping,” Finseth added. “We talked with the guys after warm up and they felt like their energy was a bit low and that was concerning to hear. We took about four to five minutes before we got settled in, but once we did, the guys started to play.”
The Devils have one day to prepare for Thursday’s contest against Section 7A and Iron Range Conference opponent International Falls, a team that was undefeated before a Tuesday night loss to Hibbing/Chisholm. Finseth says that losing against the Broncos would hurt a lot harder than a loss to CEC.
“It’s a huge game on Thursday. We want to win games like tonight but they don’t necessarily hurt us. If we lose on Thursday against a Section 7 and IRC opponent, that puts us in a bad spot. The Falls is playing well and they have a very strong goaltender just like Cloquet so we’ll need to be ready.”
CEC 1 3 1 — 5
VMIB 0 0 1 — 1
1, CEC, Brock House (Brayden Tyman, Grant Nordin), 11:56.
2, CEC, Logan Dushkin (unassisted), PP, 2:29; 3, CEC, Dushkin (Cade Anderson), PP, 5:17; 4, CEC, Tyman (unassisted), PP, 16:55.
5, CEC, Dushkin (Tyman, Jaxton Ochis), SH, 9:53; 6, VMIB, Ryan Manninen (Ben Ervin, Braeden Tiedeman), 16:50.
Penalties-Minutes: CEC 3-6; VMIB 5-10.
Goalie saves: Jacob Walsh, CEC, 7-10-7—24; Ian Kangas, VMIB, 15-9-9—33.