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Season Preview: Girls Hockey

West Fargo goalie Andrea Klug is mobbed by her teammates after the Packers defeated Fargo North 3-1 to win last year's state title in Grand Forks.

Hoisting a state tournament trophy was a great accomplishment for the West Fargo girls hockey team last season.

What could possibly surpass that moment? Doing it again.

This season, the Packers will be shooting for their second state title since girls hockey became a sanctioned sport in 2007. Repeating the feat will require duplicating the grit and determination of last year's team, and getting every player working together as a cohesive group.

"We're coming along. We have some new girls on the team," West Fargo coach Pat Johnson said. "You got to keep on the younger ones; keep them up to date."

The Packers have four freshman and two sophomores on their team this season, which means the faster they can shift gears to varsity speed, the better, Johnson said.

West Fargo preaches "a team concept," he said, so veterans do their best to help out greenhorns. Three seasoned players, in particular, have been given the reins to lead the Packers.

Forwards Kacie Johnson and Kaylee Lothspeich were named captains, while defenseman Melanie Sopp was named assistant captain. The three seniors return a ton of experience, as well as the bulk of West Fargo's points from last season.

Kacie Johnson was the No. 1 point producer in the state with 61, edging Fargo North's Haley Olmstead by one point. Kacie Johnson's 36 goals also were a state best, and brought her career total since her freshman season to 93. The three-time All-State Packer added four more goals to that total on Saturday during West Fargo's season opener; a 10-1 win over Devils Lake.

Lothspeich was third in team points and ninth in the state after accumulating 9 goals and 22 assists. Her power at forward will be critical this year, especially with the absence of Kelsey Kloos, who put up 34 points last year and was named State Senior of the Year, as well as earning All-EDC and All-State honors.

Sopp should set a good example at defense. She proved her aggressiveness by spending 32 minutes in the penalty box over the season - second only to Tia Lopez's 44 minutes for most penalties on the team - but still managed to crank out 5 goals and 11 assists. For her efforts, Sopp earned both All-Conference and All-State honors.

Other notable points producers returning are Katlyn Springer, an All-EDC selection, and Courtney Ellenson. Defensive All-Conference selection Katlyn Springer also will be back.

But if the opposition manages to get through all those players, they still have to get the puck past one of the top goalies in the state for the past two years.

Andrea Klug, a two-time All-EDC and All-State goalie, once again will be West Fargo's go-to netminder. As a freshman last season, Klug had an astoundingly low goals against average of just 1.12, and saves percentage of 93.4. The result was a 20-2-1 season for the Packers.

And while West Fargo will rely heavily on its veteran players this season, it will be the fresh faces who could turn the tide.

Already, two freshmen have done just that. In the Packers' opening game against Devils Lake, Kelly Krahn scored twice and Allison Springer had two assists.

If that is any indication of things to come, West Fargo is on the right track.

"It all depends on how quick the underclassmen develop," Pat Johnson said. "We still have our No. 1 line, which is good, and our top defensemen and goalie.

"You have to have that supporting cast."

Looking at their competition, however, Pat Johnson knows defending their state title won't come easy.

"North is going to be good, south is much improved. Bismarck will always be tough," he said. "Everyone has come up. Grand Fork is always good. There are at least six teams with a legitimate chance to win state."