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Cloquet-Esko-Carlton to proceed with switch to Class A

The Lumberjacks typically opt-up to play in Class AA.

North Woods Credit Union Arena.jpg
Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet.
File / Cloquet Pine Journal

CLOQUET — Barring a last-minute change of heart, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey team will move forward as a Class A team for the first time in program history next season.

Cloquet Activities Director Paul Riess told the school board at its Monday, Jan. 23 meeting that his plans have not changed; he will not submit a request to opt-up to Class AA next season.

The process requires an application to be sent to the Minnesota State High School League requesting the move. The application, due Friday, Jan. 27, is submitted every two years.

Discussion about a potential switch began during the board’s Dec. 12 meeting when Riess presented the results of a survey sent out to area hockey families in the pee-wee through varsity levels asking for opinions on a possible change. Of the 77 respondents of the survey, 71 said they were in favor of playing in Class A, with many citing a desire to play schools of comparable size.
In the weeks after the survey results were unveiled, Riess shared that two individuals changed their position in wanting the program to continue at the Class AA level of competition, though the vast majority still wish to move to Class A.

The change means that the Lumberjacks will join the Section 7A field of 10 teams, which includes the likes of Hermantown, Proctor, Duluth Denfeld, Rock Ridge, Moose Lake Area and North Shore, among others.

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CEC had previously competed in Section 7AA against Duluth East and Grand Rapids, along with metro teams like Blaine and Andover, which have enrollments of 2,666 and 1,605, respectively. CEC has a combined enrollment of 1,177.

The Lumberjacks will continue to schedule and play against AA teams during the regular season, which had been a concern raised at the December meeting.

In speaking with teams at the Class AA level that CEC has scheduled in previous years, Riess shared that the responses were all positive regarding their change in classification.

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“For the most part we got a lot of responses that said, ‘Hey we don’t care one way or another. We just want to play good programs,’” Riess shared. “And some said we love playing northern teams and others said you have a very classy program, we’ll still play you.”

This year, the Lumberjacks have fared relatively well against Class AA competition with a 6-5-1 record, compared to a 3-1 record against Class A opponents through 16 games this season.

Over the past 10 years, however, CEC has struggled to find success in the postseason, with its last appearance in the Section 7AA final, and subsequently the Class AA state tournament, coming during the 2007-2008 season under then head coach Dave Esse.

Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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