West Fargo skaters happy to be back home
The Packer girls hockey team is playing its best hockey of the year as it heads into the home stretch with only four regular season games left.
And it's a true home stretch. All four games will be at home, two of them against teams the 12-3-1 Packers lost to this season (Bismarck on Feb. 14 and Fargo South on Feb. 17). After 46 days without a home game, last week's home wins over Dickinson and Mandan were a welcome change. That there's plenty of home action to come bodes well for the Packers as they head into the state tournament; there is no EDC tourney in N.D. girls hockey.
"That's the good part, that we're finally back at home," said Packers coach Pat Johnson. "That's what you want, because we spent a lot of time on the road. That's good for bonding, but they can have their friends and family come to see them now. It's a good thing for us."
The Packers are also hitting their stride offensively. They didn't score more than three goals in any of their first five games but had scored 23 goals during the four-game winning streak they were riding at press time.
West Fargo beat Dickinson 6-1 last Friday on a hat trick from sophomore Kacie Johnson and a pair of goals from junior Tia Lopez. The Packers shut out Mandan 8-0 last Saturday on two more goals from Kacie Johnson and a pair of goals and a pair of assists from sophomore Kaylee Lothspeich.
Kacie Johnson and Lothspeich are line mates, along with sophomore Katlyn Springer on the Packers' top line, known as the green line. It's among the highest scoring lines in the state. Kacie Johnson is fourth in scoring in the state with 14 points and 9 assists.
"We've been playing together for a long time, and everything clicks when we're out there," said Springer. "We've been doing a lot of drills on crashing the net and catching some of those rebounds lately."
The Packers will likely need the extra scoring in upcoming games. Three of their final five games of the season are against teams the Packers have lost to this year. Results from Tuesday's matchup against Fargo North were unavailable at press time.
"I'm hoping we're ready for some of the bigger teams," said Kacie Johnson. "We had our offense start to get a lot better this last weekend, and I'm hoping it carries over into bigger games."
As always, much of the team's success will fall on the shoulders of the goaltender. This year, and for many more to come, it's eighth-grader Andrea Klug that bares that burden. She's among the state leaders with a 91.2 save percentage, and she's played more hockey this season than any goalie in the state. It was just last year when Klug was playing for a 12 and under team.
"There's improvement there, and the big one now is that she's starting to get used to everything," said Pat Johnson. "Some of the things you can do at 12U you can't do at the high school level, but she's learning and works very hard."
The Packers were in fourth place at press time with 27 points, only one point behind the second and third place teams. Fargo South was first in the state with 30 points. The Packers host Hazen-Beulah Saturday at 2 p.m.