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Boys hockey: WF takes fifth at state tournament

West Fargo's Dusty Jonasson scored on Grafton-Park River goalie Dylan Offutt during the fifth-place game of the North Dakota state hockey tournament in Grand Forks on Saturday.1 / 4
The West Fargo boys hockey team lines up before their fifth-place North Dakota state tournament game in Grand Forks on Saturday.2 / 4
West Fargo's Jeremy Johnson (11), Kyle Shoman (4) and Derek Sand prepare for a faceoff during the North Dakota state tournament on Saturday in Grand Forks.3 / 4
The West Fargo boys hockey team poses for photos after winning fifth place in the North Dakota state hockey tournament on Saturday in Grand Forks.4 / 4

Two weeks ago, the West Fargo boys hockey team earned a state berth by beating Grand Forks Red River in the East Region Tournament and bumping the defending state champions out of title contention.

Last weekend, the Packers continued to exceed expectations.

Returning to the state tournament for the first time since 2003, the Packers fell 5-2 to Bismarck on Thursday, Feb. 25, in Grand Forks. But West Fargo managed to recover from the loss to win its final two games and earn consolation honors.

"It was a fun weekend," Packers co-coach Tim Capouch said. "All the players had a good time."

The hockey year started bumpy for West Fargo. The Packers followed a three-game winning streak with a three-game losing streak. It was a back-and-forth year until they found their stride at the end of January and won nine of their last 11 games. Taking fifth place at the state tournament was a solid ending for West Fargo (8-5-2 EDC, 17-7-3 overall).

But it didn't come easy.

To get there, No. 4-seeded West Fargo had to face Bismarck, the top seed from the West Region. The Demons were down by one point early in the game, but scored three straight goals during the second period that the Packers never really recovered from.

The loss sent West Fargo to the consolation semifinals, where it faced No. 2 Fargo South. The Bruins had both beaten and tied the Packers during the regular season.

It was do-or-die time.

"That Fargo South game was a fun one," Capouch said.

The Bruins' Tyler Sorenson drew first blood, scoring late in the first period off a feed from Josh Hooey. But The Packers struck back, getting back-to-back goals from Charlie Torrance and Dusty Jonasson.

As the game wore on, the teams found themselves tied 3-3 and about to head into overtime. That's when Capouch hatched a plan.

"The faceoff was in our zone," he said. "We planned a draw play to get the puck up ice."

The plan worked flawlessly, and the result was a game-winning shot from Dusty Munyer with 14 seconds left on the clock.

Though the win against South was sweet, West Fargo was about to face one of its biggest rivals of the season. Grafton-Park River was 2-of-3 against the Packers during the regular season; they were a daunting opponent, but not unbeatable.

"I told them; we played (G-PR) three times this season and there's only been a difference of one goal," Capouch said. "It's payback time."

West Fargo doled out the payback with fury. The Packers scored four straight goals before the Spoilers were able to answer. In the end, West Fargo was too much and won 4-3.

"We came out and outworked them," Capouch said.

Jonasson led the Packers through the tournament with a combined total of seven goals and three assists. Derek Sand finished with three assists, and Munyer scored three goals. Goalie Cameron Holland made a total of 99 saves, of which 39 came against the Spoilers.

For their efforts, Sand was named to the All-State team, and Jonasson was named to the All-Tournament team. Both players also had been named to the All-East Region team earlier this season.

But Capouch won't point to one person for his team's success. "Everybody played good," he said.

Several records also were broken this season for West Fargo. Jonasson earned the single-season points record and single-season assists record after racking up 19 goals and 23 assists. Senior captain Brandon Tendeland broke the single-season defensive points record with 29. Holland had the most wins as a goalie with 13, and Sand's 43 assists were enough for the career record.

As a team, the Packers' 17 wins beat their former record by five, and they scored a total of 119 goals compared with last year's record of 88.

After graduating six seniors from last year's team, the Packers needed veterans such as senior captains Jonasson and Sand to step up and lead. They didn't disappoint. Next year, however, West Fargo will be in much of the same state, as they will graduate eight seniors from this year's team.

Is Capouch worried about the turnaround?

"We'll be just fine," he said "We have a lot of those guys back again."

The Packers proved last weekend that they can compete with the best teams in the state. Capouch is proud of his team.

"It was a fun weekend," he said, "and a good weekend for West Fargo hockey."