The Forest Lake boys’ hockey team closed its season last Tuesday with a first-round Section 7AA tournament loss at No. 17 Cloquet-Esko-Carlton.
The Rangers lost 5-2 to the home team despite outshooting the Lumberjacks 36-23.
Head coach Aaron Forsythe said both teams came out tentative in the first period, but C-E-C still came away with back-to-back goals halfway through the period to take a 2-0 lead.
“I felt good about our play and we were outshooting them, but we just didn’t get the bounces,” Forsythe said.
The Lumberjacks came away with the luck again in the second, scoring twice more before the Rangers made a mark on the scoreboard.
Sophomore Collin Carpenter started the offensive attack with a shot on goal while seniors Kyle Parker and Trevor Thompson created traffic in the crease. Thompson came out of the scramble on top with the score.
The Rangers attacked and succeeded again just five minutes later when senior Jack Schmidt came charging up from Forest Lake territory with the puck, leaving three Lumberjacks in his wake. The defender found junior Alex Egle, who tapped the puck to sophomore John Suess for a clear shot shot on an open net to make it 4-2.
Suess’ goal would close the scoring for Forest Lake as C-E-C went on to earn two more goals in the third period.
Junior Jesse Garcia recorded 23 saves in net.
“We made a few fatal mistakes in our own end that we paid for,” Forsythe said. “In reality, we played good hockey. It’s just that in order to win in sections, you need to play great hockey.”
As for the seniors who ended their high school careers last Tuesday, the head coach said it will be a tough group to replace. Seniors include: Thompson, Schmidt, Parker, Landon Pikala, Cody Rogala, Brandon Hess, Colin Peterson and Noah Brown.
“We had great leadership from our guys on the ice, in the locker room and in school,” Forsythe said. “I really do credit the success of this team to those seniors.”
In addition, junior forward Brett Gravelle ended his season in the metro area’s top-60 point leaders in regular-season play with 41 points off 11 goals and 30 assists.
“He’s a great player that has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time,” Forsythe said.
In the final nine regular-season games, Forest Lake lost just two games to No. 4 (Class AA) Duluth East and No. 18 White Bear Lake.
The Rangers ended the 2012-13 season with a record of 15-11 overall and 10-7 in the Suburban East Conference. It was the squad’s first 15-win season since 2009.