In just its third appearance at state, the West Fargo boys hockey team managed to finish higher than ever before.
On Saturday, the Packers ground out a 3-2 victory in overtime to defeat Grand Forks Central and grab third-place honors during the state tournament at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The win capped a weekend best described as tumultuous, and that laid witness to a plethora of Packer highs and lows.
West Fargo started things off Thursday with a 1-0 victory over Minot. The score may be a bit misleading to the closeness, however, as the Packers peppered Magician's goalie Darren Medler with shots. The senior was all but a brick wall, making an astounding 41 saves on the night. Had West Fargo's Conor Jonasson not scored the eventual game-winner at the end of the first period, the game very well could have gone into overtime.
What happened in the semifinals, though, may have been the most adrenaline-packed game of the series. Two foes, West Fargo and Grand Forks Red River, produced an epic battle that could go down as one of the most white-knuckled games in state tournament history.
In the end, the Riders came out on top with a 4-3 edge in double overtime, but not before a serious see-saw of power on the ice.
It started with back-to-back Packer scores in the first period by Jeremy Johnson - this year's East Region Outstanding Senior Award recipient - and Dusty Munyer. The Roughriders answered with a flurry of their own, scoring three straight goals to take the lead through the 10-minute mark of the third period.
That's when Johnson answered, scoring the game-tying goal to force overtime. But while West Fargo had plenty of scoring opportunities in the extra minutes, it was Red River's Casey Fugleberg who found the back of the net. The Riders would go on to win the state title in a defeat of Grafton-Park River on Saturday.
For the Packers, this meant a shot at third place, but to do so they'd have to beat the Knights, a team of whom they'd split during the regular season.
After scoreless first and second periods, Central's Tyler Haug kicked things off with a goal at 6 minutes, 14 seconds in the third. Less than two minutes later, however, Johnson tied it up off an assist from Jonasson. Munyer's goal at 12:33 put West Fargo in the lead with the game clock winding down, but Central points leader Johnny Simonson scored with less than a minute to spare to force overtime.
Fittingly, it was Packers points leader and top senior Jonasson who got the game winner, assisted by Munyer and Brandon Tendeland. All three also were named All-Conference.
But the star of the show, and maybe the weekend, was West Fargo goalie Cameron Holland. The senior made 44 stops on the night, and tallied nearly 100 for the three-game series.
So while they didn't bring a state championship back to West Fargo, the Packers still finished with a flurry and had arguably one of their best seasons to date with quite possibly some of the best hockey players the team has ever produced.