Duluth skates past C-I girls hockey in playoff opener

The Bluejackets owned the early momentum in the 7AA playoff game when sophomore Kristin Eustice found the five-hole for a 1-0 lead in the first period at Duluth Feb. 9.

In the opening round of the Section 7AA girls hockey playoffs, host Duluth used its speed advantage to roll to an 8-2 victory over Cambridge-Isanti-Mora Pine City at beautiful Heritage Arena Feb. 9.

Facing a team they defeated 7-6 in overtime to open the 2012 season, the Bluejackets came out with good energy. Alex Nelson and Taylor Bowker both were denied on close shots to test the Northern Stars’ goalie early. The Jackets held well on Duluth’s first power play, helped by a couple of clears from defender Megan Erickson. Nelson and Shelby Sylvester followed with good shots with continued pressure in the other end.

Then at the 7:48 mark, Jordan Ramey skated down the left side and slid a perfect pass to Kristin Eustice who deflected a one-timer through the five-hole for a 1-0 CIMPC lead. Less than a minute later, however, Duluth’s Nikki Logergren slammed home a breakaway to tie the game, then Stars’ teammate Rosie Nelson made it 2-1 with a doorstep goal at the 15:31 mark. Holly Guerin and Erickson fought well on the Duluth doorstep during one last Jacket chance near the end of the period.

Senior Holly Guerin battled for position in front of the Northern Stars’ net. Guerin delivered the Jackets’ final goal of the season in the third period of the 8-2 loss.

But the CIMPC girls had another huge second-period letdown when the Northern Stars racked up five unanswered goals to virtually put away the game. Logergren scored on an early power play, then she got the hat track with a sweet wrap-around goal six minutes later. Logergren assisted on the Stars’ next two goals, then an Alexia Klaas short-handed breakaway made it 7-1 Duluth.

The Northern Stars got their last goal 3:51 into the third period. Holly Guerin scored the Bluejackets’ final goal of the season off Kaity Ripp and Bowker assists with four minutes to play in the game. CIMPC finished the season with an 8-15-3 record.

• In the 7AA semifinals on Saturday, top-seed Elk River beat Duluth 5-2, and No. 2 Grand Rapids-Greenway got past No. 3 Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 4-3. The Elks will take on host Grand Rapids for the title and State berth Feb. 16.

— Photos & story by Greg Hunt