Just as relatives and family members from around the world returned home over the holidays to spend time with their loved ones, so too did some former West Fargo boys hockey players.
Last week, several ex-Packers took to the ice at Veteran's Memorial Arena in West Fargo to practice alongside the current crop of varsity players.
"It's a lot of fun, and it's nice to be back," said Dusty Jonasson, a 2010 graduate of West Fargo High School.
Alongside Dusty Jonasson (who visited with the team but did not lace up because of illness) was his brother, Conor Jonasson, as well as Tyler Swanson, Derek Sand, Jeremy Johnson (last year's EDC Senior of the Year) and Brandon Tendeland. Dusty Munyer and Nick Turner were also in town, co-coach Tim Capouch said, but did not make it to Thursday's practice.
After a somewhat rocky start to the season, the Packers may have benefited from close contact with former top players.
An All-Conference forward during his time with West Fargo, Dusty Jonasson led by example his senior year and finished with a team-high 42 points that put him 10th in the state for scoring.
After a year of junior hockey with the Minnesota Owls, Dusty Jonasson now is lacing up as a freshman with Division III Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, located roughly 15 minutes north if Milwaukee.
Looking back on his high school career, Dusty Jonasson said he did have some advice for players looking toward their future.
"Do as much off-ice conditioning as possible," he said. "Hit the weight rooms, run, whatever."
The transition from high school hockey to junior hockey was not easy, he said, and it pays to not get complacent once the season ends.
"Junior hockey was a lot faster and a lot more physical," Dusty Jonasson said.
Off-ice conditioning might not hurt current West Fargo players, who rose to 2-5 in conference play and 3-6 overall with a win over Fargo Davies (4-4-1) last Tuesday.
After a scoreless first period, the Eagles struck with a powerplay goal halfway through the second period. But less than 20 seconds later, senior Sage Raghib answered for the Packers to tie the game 1-1.
Tyler Berginski netted the game winner less than two minutes into the final period, and then put the nail in Davies' coffin with another goal a few minutes later.
West Fargo goalie Bailey Vareberg finished with 31 saves, while the Eagles' Tucker Windels had 33 saves.
So far this season, junior Blake Nelson leads the Packers with three goals and eight assists. Sophomores Tyler Berginski and CJ Lenzmeier lead the team in goals with four apiece.
West Fargo has juggled its starting goalie from game to game. The win over Davies was Verberg's first of the season, and increased his record to 1-2. The sophomore has an 88.1 saves percentage, and has relinquished 10 goals in three games.
At 2-4 on the season, goalie Kyle Olson has a bit more ice time than his counterpart. The senior also leads with a 90.7 saves percentage, and has given up 16 goals in six games.
Beginning Tuesday, the Packers end their holiday break by kicking off a three-day tournament in Fergus Falls, Minn. They play again at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at home against Devils Lake.
Girls hockey blanks D.L.
The West Fargo girls hockey team picked up its third win of the season Tuesday after dropping Detroit Lakes 9-0 on the road.
Solidifying herself as West Fargo's most potent offensive threat, Kelly Krahn chalked up five goals to give her 14 points on the season. The sophomore currently is ranked 12th in the state.
Chelsea Wangen sparked the West Fargo (2-4-0 EDC, 3-4-0) scoring streak in the first period off an assist by Tori Holland. Wangen finished with two goals and four assists on the night.
Alli Springer also tallied four assists to give her nine points on the season and put her right behind Krahn on the depth chart. Springer's eight season assists is a team high.
The Packers were scheduled to take on Mandan (2-5-0, 4-5-0) on the road Tuesday, but results were unavailable by press time. They play again at 5:30 p.m. Jan 6, at Minot (6-2-0), and then face Williston (3-5-0) at 2 p.m. the following day.
Wrestling ranked 40th in U.S.
The Packers wrestling team sits as a favorite to win the North Dakota Class A State Tournament this year.
Now they have another distinction to add in their favor.
West Fargo was recently ranked 40th in the Amateur Wrestling News Prep 40 poll, released Dec. 13. No other North Dakota team is ranked in the poll, and only two Minnesota teams, Simley (No. 6) and Apple Valley (No. 7) are listed.
The Packers remained undefeated last week after taking a decisive 50-19 victory over Moorhead on Tuesday. In all, 10 West Fargo players picked up wins, four of which came in the form of pins.
This week, the Packers will partake in the sixth annual Rumble on the Red wrestling tournament which runs Thursday and Friday at the FargoDome. First-round action kicks off at 10 a.m. Thursday, while place matches begin at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Last year, West Fargo took ninth place with 128 points, and led all North Dakota teams. Scott West finished as the overall team champion with 201 points.
Girls basketball flawless
Another week and another win for the West Fargo girls basketball team.
The Packers picked up their fifth win of the season Thursday at home against Grand Forks Central.
West Fargo led by 23 points at the half, and went on to win 70-41.
Leading the Packers (5-0) was Christine Baltezore, who had a team-high 14 points that included two 3-pointers. The junior guard was 6-of-7 from the field, and had a game-high 3 steals.
Right behind her was teammate Lexi Lennon, who tallied 13 points, but went just 6-for-16 from field-goal range.
The Packers outrebounded the Knights 42-30. Rachel Hummel and Sam Gooding had five rebounds apiece for West Fargo.
At 7:30 p.m. Jan. 5, the Packers hit the road to face Grand Forks Red River. The No. 2 Roughriders' only loss came in their season opener to No. 3 Fargo Shanley. Since then, Red River has gone on a three-game winning streak.
Boys basketball: The Packers rose to 3-1 on the season after their 45-34 win over Valley City last Tuesday. They are scheduled to visit Grand Forks Central on Thursday for a 7:30 p.m. game.
Boys swimming: West Fargo has not competed in competition since Dec. 17. The Packers' is a dual Dec. 6 at Grand Forks, beginning at 5:30 p.m.