The West Fargo boys hockey team ended its regular season schedule the way it began: with five straight wins.
But the cherry on top? Avenging an early-season loss by beating Red River 2-1 on Thursday at the conference-leader's home pond in Grand Forks.
"We were ready to play," West Fargo co-coach Tim Capouch said. "It was nice to beat them on their own ice."
West Fargo's Charlie Torrance struck first in the opening period, while Braden Schmid netted the shorthanded game-winner in the second. Then it was up to Packers goalie Cameron Holland, who stifled the Riders through a scoreless third period and finished the night with 25 saves.
With the win, the Packers were poised to wrench control of the conference's top spot from Red River. All the Riders had to do was lose their final regular-season game to Grafton-Park River.
But while West Fargo got the upper hand in their game, Red River came out on top against the Spoilers. Still, the margin between the No. 1 and 2 spots is minimal.
"It's the difference between a couple goals," Capouch said, as the Packers and Riders each finished with 24 points in the East Region rankings.
At 15-4-2 overall, and 9-4-1 in conference play, this year's West Fargo team had one of its best seasons in years. It finished with two more regular-season wins than last year's team, Capouch said, which easily could have been even better.
"We had a couple losses and one tie that I think maybe we should have been on the other side," he said.
Six Packers finished the regular season with 20 points or more. Conor Jonasson beat the team's single-season goal record with 28, while Jeremy Johnson topped the all-time career points record with "105 or 106," Capouch said.
After beating Red River, West Fargo carried that momentum into their final game of the season by soundly defeating Mandan 12-2 on Saturday, in front of a home crowd of raucous Packer fans.
Now, with plenty of confidence from a strong season and a promising end, West Fargo is poised to enter the postseason with gusto. The East Region Tournament kicks off Thursday in Grand Forks, and the No. 2 Packers are set to face No. 7 Fargo South/Shanley (5-7-2 EDC, 8-11-2) at 6 p.m. in the opening round.
And although momentum may be on West Fargo's side, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.
"The only thing we need to do is tighten up the power play," he said. "We'll be working on that the next few days."
As for the Bruins, it will be a simple case of putting in a solid effort. Fargo South/Shanley upset the Packers earlier this season with a big 8-2 win, but the Packers returned the favor with a 7-5 victory Jan. 11.
"We have to go out there and outwork them," Capouch said.
No matter what happens this weekend, the Packers have had an epic year.
"This team has been great," Capouch said. "Everyone is working hard."