Holiday hockey tournaments usually serve as a springboard of sorts for the Packer boys to get their season back on track. This year was no different.
This young West Fargo team went 1-1-1 and has nearly matched last season's win total with more than half of the season left to play. The Packers unofficially won the tie game by winning a post regulation shootout.
"We played a lot better than we had the last two games before the tournament," said junior Kyle Shoman. "It'll help us a lot, because we finally figured out how to play with each other a lot better. We're a young team, and we're getting used to each other now."
Co-head coach Tim Capouch said he and counterpart Troy Miller challenged the team prior to the tournament, telling the players that the Packers were going into the tourney using four lines and coming out with three.
"We were rolling four lines somewhat in the tournament, and we told them, 'You guys are going to have to step up and come out with three lines. Show us who wants to be part of those three lines,'" said Capouch, who added the coaches will make good on their promise.
West Fargo opened the tourney with a 3-2 win over Detroit Lakes on Dec. 29. Senior Jared Koehnen's first goal of the season gave the Packers a 2-1 lead in the first period before senior Dusty Jonasson put the Packers up 3-1 unassisted.
The Packers lost 3-2 the next day against Fergus Falls after giving up two third period goals. West Fargo beat Mankato West 4-3 in a shootout to wrap up the tournament. The game officially goes into the books as a tie.
Koehnen, sophomore Jeremy Johnson and junior Derek Sand scored in the shootout to win it for the Packers.
Sophomore Cameron Holland made some solid saves for the Packers during the shootout in which five players get a one-on-one shot at the opposing team's goalie. Johnson scored on a spin around behind his back that he usually shows off in practice. Miller encouraged Johnson to try his patented move before hitting the ice.
Jonasson said the team's solid tourney play will help them going into the rest of the season. The Packers, 3-5-1 overall, play Fargo South on Saturday at the Urban Plains Center and play at defending state champion Grafton on Jan. 17.
"We have to show up for EDC and hopefully make it to state," said Jonasson. "I think we have some things to work on, but if we click at the right time we can go to state easily."
Johnson in second
The Packer girls hockey team kept its hold on third place in the state standings with a shutout on the road against Hazen Beulah last Friday. West Fargo won 3-0 behind two goals from sophomore Kacie Johnson.
The Packers, 7-2, are only two points away from first place Grand Forks in the state standings. Johnson was the second-leading points scorer in the state with 16 (8 goals, 8 assists) at press time.
West Fargo plays at Devils Lake on Saturday. The Packers beat the Firebirds 3-0 earlier this season.
Undefeated no more
The undefeated Packer boys basketball team traveled to the Bismarck area for a pair of holiday season matchups last week. They came home with a pair of losses.
West Fargo was 4-2 at press time earlier this week and looking vulnerable despite their first place standing in the conference.
"We played some weaker teams in the EDC, so this trip was good for us to see where we're at," said Packer coach Greg Limke. "We're obviously not where we want to be right now, especially on defense. We really have to work on our defense."
The No. 3- ranked Packers were hampered by poor shooting in a 69-64 loss to Bismarck Century on Dec. 29 and lost to top-ranked Mandan the next day 71-58. West Fargo shot only 28 combined free throws in the two games, while its two opponents shot 57.
"There was a huge free throw advantage for our opponents those two games. Part of it was poor defense. Part of it was they are really good aggressive teams, and we weren't aggressive enough," said Limke. "Those are things we will be trying to improve on."
Senior Jason Moch is one of the top scorers in the state with a 20.3 scoring average. Senior Mike Benson is averaging 17.8 ppg. Moch, who said team defense will improve, also leads the Packers in rebounding and assists.
"We'll be working a lot on our defense," he said. "We'll be working hard. (In Bismarck) we weren't being too aggressive on offense either."
They lose too
The Packer girls basketball team also fell victim to solid WDA play in the Bismarck area over the holiday week. West Fargo, still tied for third place in the EDC, lost 78-61 to Bismarck Century and 70-53 to Bismarck.