Packers boys hockey improving on youth after Sheyenne split
Tim Capouch told his young West Fargo boys hockey team in one of the first meetings of the year there would have some learning curves. The West Fargo co-head coach expects the Packers to get better every day this season, and if they do, they hope to make a run at the state tournament.
With this being the first season since the Packers and West Fargo Sheyenne split into two different teams, the Mustangs have nearly all of last year's experienced players. The Packers return just two players with varsity experience and not a single senior on the roster.
"We'll take our lumps and bumps and get better every day," Capouch said. "It's a learning experience for them. I'm looking forward to it."
After going 3-19-1 last season, the Packers went into the East Region tournament as the No. 7 seed and lost twice.
Along with the loss of a large senior class to Sheyenne, the Packers lose all-East Region defenseman Austin Schoenberg, who had five goals and five assists last year. The Packers also lose goalie Brandon Rust, who had an 86.9 save percentage and allowed 4.54 goals per game last year. West Fargo also graduated the team's second leading scorer Brody Sherod, who totaled nine goals and 10 assists last season, Cole Haverland, who finished last season with three goals and six assists, and Stephan Mallery, who recorded eight goals and eight assists last year.
"It will be a tough season, but I think we can get through it," junior defenseman Chase Forthun said. "For all the younger guys, it's a big jump moving from bantams to high school. We'll just have to show them how fast the game is and how much of a jump it is."
Junior wing Nathan Tangen said the speed of varsity hockey will be an adjustment for the players who will be coming off playing at the bantam level a year ago. Tangen said the team is all friends who get along and are trying to get better.
"I think we have some great underclassmen joining us," Tangen said. "We've still got to come together as a team. Then next year we're going to be pretty good."
Tangen said he learned plenty last season including the importance of puck possession and defense. Forthun said he learned how to make better passes and how to keep up with the speed of varsity hockey. He also learned how to pick his head up when the season got tough.
"We just have to keep them positive and keep their heads up," Tangen said. "We're growing closer as a team since we're very young. We've got each other's backs on and off the ice."
Forthun and Tangen, the two team captains, are trying to make sure everyone does their jobs during practices. Tangen believes the Packers could be better than last year and hopes for more wins this year.
"I think we'll have good chemistry," Forthun said. "We're starting out pretty new, and we're just going to have to progress throughout the season."
Capouch said he's trying to get his players used to the speed of the game as quickly as possible.
"They just have to get comfortable playing against varsity hockey players," Capouch said. "It's a totally different ball game. They all work hard. It's going to be fun. They're going to get better every single day."
West Fargo boys hockey
Coaches: Troy Miller and Tim Capouch (ninth year)
Last year's finish: 3-19-1 record, lost in East Region tournament consolation semifinals
Who's gone: Brody Sherod, Cole Haverland, Stephan Mallery, Brandon Rust
Key returners: Chase Forthun, Jr., D; Nathan Tangen, Jr., F.