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Girls hockey: West Fargo falls to North in third-place game

West Fargo's Hayley Walsh (2) and Minot's Makaila Anderson reach for a loose puck during their opening round game of the North Dakota State Tournament on Thursday in Grand Forks. John Stennes / Forum Communications Co.

Just when winter decides to show up to the region after a lengthy hiatus, the prep hockey season is over.

In the end, the West Fargo girls hockey team probably did as well as expected, especially after entering the year without several veteran skaters. All three of their top scorers from last season - Kacie Johnson, Kaylee Lothspeich and Katlyn Springer - were seniors.

During the North Dakota Class A State Tournament last weekend in Grand Forks, the Packers finished in fourth place after a grind-it-out game against Fargo North that went into double overtime.

To get to Saturday's game, however, No. 4 West Fargo first took on No. 5 Minot in Thursday's opening round.

At the end of the first period, Rachel Monkman put the Packers on the board during a power play, jumpstarting her team's eventual 4-1 win. The junior would score two goals on the night.

West Fargo's Kelly Krahn and Britney Yliniemi also scored against Minot, while Maddy Nelson tallied two assists.

Packers goalie Andrea Klug made 12 saves, compared with 35 stops by Minot's Sydney Swanson.

The win set up a big matchup between the Packers and unbeaten Fargo South. In two regular-season meeting between the teams, the Bruins came away with 5-2 and 2-1 victories.

While their last meeting was closer, South would make sure the Packers didn't get an edge Friday.

After a scoreless first period, the Bruins' Sadie Hayes scored the game-winner just 19 seconds into the second period. She would finish with two goals in her team's 3-0 win.

Fargo South would go on to win the North Dakota Class A championship, beating Grand Forks 7-2 in the title game.

Proving they were down, but certainly not out, the Packers regrouped for a third-place try Saturday against Fargo North.

The Spartans and Packers are no strangers to playing each other during the postseason. Last year, it was North who stalled West Fargo's chances at another championship in the title game. The Spartans won 4-1.

North added one more chip to West Fargo's shoulder this year, by winning third place 2-1 after two overtimes.

The Packers actually led 1-0 heading into the third period after freshman Krahn scored her ninth goal of the season off an assist by Walsh. But with only a few minutes left in regulation, North's Star Garrett tied the game 1-1.

After a scoreless overtime, the Spartans' Mara Teschendorf ended things in the second extra period with the game-winning goal.

It was a disappointing end for the Packers, but the experience should pay dividends next year.

For starters, they have the potential to return their top seven points leaders. In fact, West Fargo only loses two seniors to graduation in Tanya Kolrud and captain Yliniemi.

Walsh finished the season as the Packers top goalie threat with 34 goals and 51 total points for fifth best in the state. Right behind her was Krahn, whose 29 goals and 19 assists were good enough for eighth in the state.

Rounding out West Fargo's leaders include Alli Springer (14 goals, 18 assists), Chelsea Wangen (14 goals, 16 assists), Tori Holland (7 goals, 16 assists,, Monkman (14 goals, 6 assists) and Nelson (8 goals, 7 assists).

In net, Klug got the brunt of the action as West Fargo's starter. The junior finished with a 12-9-0 record, and had a 92.1 saves percentage. The Packers' backup goalie was freshman Morgan Sterling, who finished with a flawless 5-0-0 record and an impressive 95.2 saves percentage.

A fourth-place finish may not seem as illustrious as past postseason awards, but it still is something West Fargo can be proud of. And considering what the future may hold, 2012-13 could shape up to be an exciting winter.