The Packers girls hockey team started off on the right foot.
West Fargo began regular-season play Tuesday, Nov. 24, at home against top-tier Fargo South.
The Packers dominated the Bruins, winning 5-1 in a seemingly lopsided match. It is the first time since the team's inception in 2007 that West Fargo has won its season-opener.
"We've never started with a first-game win before," said Pat Johnson, West Fargo girls hockey coach.
"It's always a good thing," he said, of winning the opener.
West Fargo clearly had the upper hand coming into the game and proved experience and talent are keys to success. This season, they returned every player from last season's fifth-place State Tournament team, while the Bruins struggled from the loss of seven seniors, including their No. 2 and No. 4 points leaders.
"Anytime you lose seniors, it's tough," Johnson said. "They lost a starting goalie, too, and put in a new goalie. It takes some time to get into the flow of things."
West Fargo's edge showed, based on the time spent on Fargo South's end of the rink. Bruins goalie Katie Bucholz had 36 saves on 41 shots, 29 of which came before the third period. In contrast, freshman Packers goalie Andrea Klug made 14 stops while letting one puck slip by, giving her a save percentage of 93.3 to start the season.
But it was a quick goal less than 30 seconds into the game that got the Packers rolling.
With the puck loose in front of Fargo South's net, a melee broke out. Several players touched the puck before West Fargo junior Kaylee Lothspeich took control and stuffed it past Bucholz.
"It's always important to come out like that," Johnson said, of the quick goal.
Lothspeich finished out the night with one goal and two assists, but she wasn't the only Packer to shine against the Bruins.
Junior forwards Katlyn Springer and Kacie Johnson both had four points. Springer scored twice - both coming less than a minute apart toward the end of the second period - and had two assists, while Johnson put up a goal and three assists.
Junior defenseman Melanie Sopp and senior forward Kelsey Kloos rounded out the Packers' points with a goal and an assist, respectively.
But Johnson wasn't completely satisfied with West Fargo's play. He had to get after players several times during the game.
"There were silly mistakes we've gone over and over and are trying to get rid of," he said. "I just wanted to let them know that just because we're ahead, doesn't mean they can quit skating.
"When we skated hard, we did well."
The Packers will have to keep up the intensity if they want to continue winning during their next few games.
They played Fargo North on Tuesday, Dec. 1, but the results were not in when this edition of the Pioneer went to press. They then head to up-and-comer Minot on Friday, Dec. 4, for a 7 p.m. game before facing Williston on their home ice on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Boys hockey tops Bismarck and Bismarck Century
If the West Fargo boys hockey team was looking to make a statement coming into the season, it did just that last weekend.
Facing Bismarck on the road Nov. 27, the Packers pulled off a major upset by defeating the 2008-09 State Tournament runner-up 2-1 in overtime during the two teams' season opener.
West Fargo followed the win by beating State Tournament qualifier Bismarck Century 3-2 on Nov. 28.
To say the weekend sweep of two previously top-ranked West Region teams is a step in the right direction for the Packers (0-0 EDC, 2-0 overall) would be an understatement.
The Packers showed their spread of talent as their goals came from five different skaters.
On Friday, sophomore Charlie Torrance drew first blood for West Fargo, scoring from a feed by Derek Sand at 10:13 in the first period on a power play. Bismarck's Brandon Oliver tied it up in the second and a scoreless third period forced overtime.
That's when junior Dusty Munyer got the winning goal with an assist from Dusty Jonasson.
On Saturday, West Fargo again struck first with a goal from senior Kyle Shoman during the first period. Bismarck Century's Logan Rauhauser tied it up toward the end of the period.
After back-and-forth goals in the second period, the game once again was tied. Then, with less than two minutes remaining in the third period, Brandon Tendeland scored the game-winner, getting assists from Jonasson and Shoman.
The Packers play their first conference game on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 3 p.m. when they face Fargo North at the Urban Plains Center. The Spartans are winless so far this season after dropping games to Bismarck and Bismarck Century last weekend.
West Fargo then gets a visit from Grafton-Park River on Tuesday, Nov. 8, for a 7:30 p.m. home game.