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Packers top Riders, tie Bruins

Midfielder Cody Bickler fights off a Red River defender. Daniel Determan / West Fargo Pioneer1 / 2
West Fargo's Salko Music jukes past two defenders in the first half of the Packers' match against Grand Forks-Red River on Tuesday, Sept. 4. The Packers won the match 4-1. Daniel Determan / West Fargo Pioneer2 / 2

The Packers had two strong performances last week, beating the Roughriders of Grand Forks-Red River 4-1 on Tuesday before playing to a 1-1 draw with the unbeaten Fargo South Bruins on Thursday night.

"The kids have had a really good week," Head Coach Doug Millar said. "I think we're going in the right direction."

In Tuesday's match against Red River, the Packers came out somewhat frantic, but managed to collect themselves by the 10-minute mark.

"We got kind of ragged in the first half, trying to send the ball long," Millar said. "Pretty soon, I've got guys gasping for air, chasing a ball that was running away from us. When we started to score, we had slowed the pace down."

Senior forward Lucas Miller scored the first goal of the game 11 minutes in, with the assist coming from midfielder Kory Wolden. Zuheer Al Abase followed suit 12 minutes later, scoring off an assist from Brady Rotert and giving the Packers a 2-0 lead.

The Roughriders got a glimmer of hope in the second half, when midfielder Bradon Axtman scored a goal when the ball rebounded right to him off the left post, bringing them to within a goal of the Packers.

The Packers, however, closed the door on them a few minutes later, getting two quick goals from midfielders Salko Music and Randy Cernik to bring the lead to three goals. Miller was credited with the assist on both goals.

The Packers, as a team, took 18 shots on goal.

"It was a good work rate" Millar said. "It's definitely something we needed going into Thursday's match."

That work rate paid dividends for the team in Thursday's fast-paced match against the Bruins.

"(Both teams) went up and down the pitch pretty quick," Millar said. "You always wonder if your kids are fit enough, and they proved to me that they are."

The Packers offense was at it right away, but it was the Bruins who got on the board first, when midfielder Jake Weiler scored in the 23rd minute.

West Fargo would play catch-up for 40 minutes until midfielder Cody Bickler scored a goal off of a Lucas Miller assist.

The draw keeps the Packers in third place in the Eastern Dakota Conference, just one point behind the second-place Bruins.

Millar saw a lot to be happy about in these two games, but insists more work can be done.

"What's holding us back is that we are still very quiet," Millar said. "The kids need to recognize that, when we've got all those sets of eyes out there, why the heck don't we use them and then maybe talk a little bit?"

The Packers will host the West Fargo Invitational on Friday and Saturday. Their three games will be played at the Lodoen Center.