46th Annual Edina Invitational Bantam "AA" - 3rd Place
Bantam "AA" Regions
February 27 - March 1, 2015
Cloquet Bantam AA came to the cities for third time this season, once early in the year, a second time for the Edina Invitational and this weekend to take on Sibley, Centennial and Blaine to tune their team up for a run through the North Regional in Roseau and to state in back in their backyard in Duluth.
In their first game, they took on #7 ranked Sibley at the West St. Paul Arena. The game got started quickly with both teams having chances. Cade Huntley got Sibley on the board knocking in a rebound off of a Jack Kubes shot to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead after one period.
Early in the second period, after Cloquet took a penalty, Sibley looked to extend their lead. What happened in the next one minute and 27 seconds is something that may never happen again. Cloquet would score three shorthanded goals in the same power play. Kade Bender got the first one as he slipped past the Sibley defense and beat Robbie Wolfe to tie the game at 1. Thirty seconds later, first year Gavin Rasmussen got loose and scored his first of two short handed goals in the same shift lifting the Lumberjacks to a 3-1 lead after. Asked after the game, if he had ever had two shorthanders in one shift, Rasmussen proudly exclaimed, "oh yeah, in Squirts and PeeWees...but never in Bantams."
In Football, that would be like having a punt blocked for a touchdown on three straight possessions or in baseball giving up three Grand Slams in an inning. One is hard to overcome, two is a death blow...but three is once in a blue moon material.
The two teams would trade goals in the third...Payton Matsui, back from injury got one for the Warriors (a welcome sight for all hockey fans).
Looking at Cloquet’s Bantam AA hockey roster isn’t supposed to remind you of a Michael J. Fox movie — but if you liked the movie “Back to the Future,” you’ll get a kick out of this team.
In some ways, it’s like hitting a time warp and getting transferred back to the 1980s. All that’s missing is Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown’s DeLorean.
Coach Brian Durand’s son Brendan plays on the team, as does Marty Ketola’s son Cooper. Durand and Ketola were teammates at Cloquet High School and were part of Bill Kennedy’s 1981-82 Lumberjack team which eventually created five Division I college captains, including Corey Millen.
Drew Rasmussen’s son Gavin plays on the team, as does Landon Langenbrunner, a fact which has drawn his Olympian and Stanley Cup-winning father Jamie to the team as an assistant.
“Drew has lived in Little Falls for the last 10 years and now he’s home and that’s great,” Durand said. “But Langie (Langenbrunner) is a little younger than us.”
“It’s paying it forward,” Durand said of former Lumberjacks coaching their sons. “I think about this team and, back in the day when I played, Bruce Plante was the Bantam coach and we had some powerhouse teams. I’ve been with this team every year but one since Mites.”
“Last year Corey (Millen) gave me a hand because I had his son on the team,” he added. “That was helpful to have Luke on the team, so having Jamie and Drew and Scott Stoyanoff and others, it’s great to have the hockey guys together.”
And, to make it even better, this team is talented.
The top 10 Bantam hockey teams in Minnesota are very closely bunched together — and that list includes Cloquet, which was ranked eighth in the state in last week’s Let’s Play Hockey magazine ratings.
“We haven’t had a team that good in a while,” Durand said. “I don’t look at the rankings every day, but the kids sure do.”
After the New Year’s Edina Invitational — in which the team took third place out of 12 teams — Cloquet was 20-6 overall, with perhaps the best still to come.
“That Edina team is pretty good,” Durand said. “Jefferson beat them to win the tournament there and we beat Jefferson 2-0 a few weeks ago ourselves.”
It’s an example of how good the team can be.
“We’ve got a pretty good group,” Durand said. “We have a fairly high skill level generally speaking, we’ve had good teams in the past, and with the Michaud group sprinkled in a few years ago they were good too, but the skill groups don’t come along often. Almost all these kids are two- or three-sport athletes too, and are good.”
“Jon Baker, Ryan Nelson, Trevor Inman, those kids have also made us go,” Durand said. “We have a lot of 14-year-old kids, so by Bantam AA standards, we would be considered a young team.”
About half the team is made up of first-year players, but they don’t play like it. Durand is most proud of the third-place game in the Edina tournament, where Cloquet beat Wayzata.
“That was our second game of the day against a big and physical team that beat Edina 9-3 not long ago and we had lost to Edina just that morning,” Durand said. “It was good for our kids to come back in a second game and win against a good team. Wayzata has eight Bantam teams and lots of them are laden with second-year players. We have two.”
Another prize win was against Bloomington Jefferson, a team that has defeated teams in the top five and is just outside the top 10 itself.
And they don’t even need a flux capacitor.
The Cloquet Lumberjacks came into the 2014-15 campaign with a lot of optimism. They returned a lot of talented second year players that did not move up to the high school team including stars Brendan Durand and Ryan Nelson. They added new faces that did not play for their PeeWee AA team two years ago, Landon Langenbrunner ('14 Wiz Wyatt POTY finalist) and move-in Gavin Rasmussen from Little Falls. Coming into the weekend, the Lumberjacks were rated #10 in the YHH NOW Rankings.
After a nice start to the season they suffered two losses last weekend in the Spirit of Duluth to Top 3 teams Grand Rapids (3-2) and Edina (8-2).
This weekend they headed south to take on Rochester twice, New Prague, and Jefferson. After winning both against Rochester (6-0 and 3-1), they knocked off New Prague Saturday 7-1. Their final tilt was against NOW Ranked #9 Jefferson at Bloomington Ice Garden.
The game was a close game with the shots in favor of Cloquet, but the scoring opportunities in favor of the Jags. After an early game delay due to a broken sheet of glass, the game was played at a very high intensity. For two and half periods the game was scoreless. Lumberjacks took a penalty and faced the Jaguar Power Play for the fifth time. Kade Bender got a loose puck inside his own zone and generated a two on one with Jon Baker. Bender sent a pretty saucer pass over a Jags Defenseman's stick onto Baker's stick. The pass got Jefferson standout Goalie Evan Redepenning just a hair out of position and Baker snapped a shot off the post and in for the go ahead goal.
The goal really energized the Cloquet team. What was a very even game gave them the necessary life to kill off the Jaguar penalty and carry the play for five or so minutes after the goal. In the final minutes, Jefferson pulled Redepenning and sustained steady pressure on Lumberjack Goalie Cooper Ketola. After three icing calls against the Jacks, the Jags had two good chances to tie, but the Cloquet defense lead by Nelson was able to clear and get a last second empty net goal by Rasumussen for the win and 4 and 0 weekend sweep.