To say it was a rocky weekend for the West Fargo boys hockey team may be an understatement.
"It wasn't a very good way to end a hockey season," co-coach Tim Capouch said.
The Packers were ranked second-to-last in the conference standings entering last weekend's East Region Tournament, so it was no big surprise when they fell to No. 2 Grafton-Park River during Tuesday's quarterfinal match.
What is surprising, however, is how they lost: the Spoilers lived up to their namesake and battled back from a four-goal deficit to defeat West Fargo 9-6.
To Capouch and co-coach Troy Miller, the snowballing steamroll of their team after such a strong start was perplexing
"It wasn't like our kids quit playing or anything, that was the weird part," Capouch said.
After a three-goal first period sparked by senior Charlie Torrance's shorthanded effort just a little more than a minute into the game, things were looking bright for the Packers. Even when the Spoilers outscored West Fargo 4-3 in the second period, the Packers still had a two-goal edge.
Then the proverbial wheels fell off the wagon.
Grafton-Park River went on a tear, scoring five unanswered goals in the third period that left the Packers reeling and wondering what had happened. Packers sophomore goalie Bailey Vareberg made 36 saves in what would become his final game of the year.
Whatever the cause of its collapse, West Fargo was bumped to a loser-out game against No. 6 Grand Forks Central.
The Packers rebounded from their strange curveball from the night before with a 5-2 win that kept them alive for at least one more day.
Then Fargo Davies went and ruined the whole shebang.
The No. 5 Eagles, a team that the Packers were 1-1 against during the regular season, were unstoppable. Even as momentum seemed to shift to West Fargo's favor in the second period after they were down 3-0, Davies didn't budget an inch.
"Their goalie was really good," Capouch said. "I think we had something like 33 attempts on net in the second period. It was pretty frustrating."
Eagles goalie Tucker Windels stopped 18 shots in the second, and finished with 34 on the night. Comparatively, West Fargo senior goalie Kyle Olson had 16 saves.
The Packers finished the year 4-10 against EDC opponents and 9-15 overall. While it may not have been their best season ever, there were some bright spots and hope for the future.
For starters, they will be losing six seniors, but only "three or four of them played a lot," Capouch said. A large chunk of West Fargo's experience should be returning, including most of their top scorers.
Top sophomores Tyler Berginski and CJ Lenzmeier should be back, as well as a possible 10 seniors, including West Fargo's No. 2 points producer, Blake Nelson.
And while next season may seem like a lifetime away, Capouch said preparations begin now.
"Weight training begins soon," he said. "We need to start getting ready for next year."
The sting from the tough weekend may take a while to subside, but Capouch said he wants his players to remember one thing: "Like I told the seniors, 'I know it doesn't feel like it now, but in the big scheme of life, it's just a game.'"