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If trend continues, Packers boys hockey could have banner season

It might be hard to believe, but it's time to dust off your scarf and mittens because the winter sports season is right around the corner.

One of the first West Fargo sports out of the frosty gate is boys hockey, which takes to the ice for their first game Saturday, Nov. 21 during the West Fargo Jamboree.

The Packers are coming off a mediocre season in which they finished midfield in the Eastern Dakota Conference at 5-9-1 and 9-13-2 overall. But it was a vast improvement from the previous season when they finished second to last in the East Region, with only winless Wahpeton having a worse record.

During the 2008-09 season, West Fargo broke several school records including goals scored (88), team assists (136) and team points (224) while scoring eight short-handed goals and finishing with a plus-minus rating of +9.

If the trend continues, will West Fargo charge to the front of the pack and possibly vie for a title this season?

It may come down to talent and experience. The Packers lost six seniors from last season, including their overall points leader, Jordan Olstad, who finished the year ranked 27th in the state and fourth all-time in West Fargo High School history after amassing 17 goals and 14 assists. His 31 points were the most recorded since Tyler Dockter amassed a school-record 41 points during the 2002-03 season.

Olstad, however, was just one of several offensive forces in the Packers' arsenal. The next five points leaders - Jeremy Johnson (jr.), Derek Sand (sr.), Brandon Tendeland (jr.), Dusty Jonasson (sr.) and Kyle Shoman (sr.) - should be back for another round.

If given the chance, these players have the ability to step up and fill the skates left by Olstad. For example, Sand - who captained along with Jonasson - racked up 23 points last season, of which 20 were assists; tying a school record held by Dave Opdahl from 1991-92. Johnson was second on the team in points scored with 12 goals and 13 assists, and tied for eighth all-time in West Fargo High School history.

Interestingly enough, two of the top points leaders, Sand and Tendeland were defenseman. Though Sand earned most of his points from assists, Tendeland scored nine times, which tied for third most on the team along with forwards Jonasson and Shoman.

Netminders return

A goalie is a team's last line of defense - literally. To start a season with a green goaltender can spell doom for a team in contention.

The Packers, thankfully, won't have that problem as their two veteran netminders should return.

Last season, West Fargo had Cameron Holland in the crease for a majority of the time. The then sophomore started with a bang, stifling 52 shots in a 6-2 loss to Bismarck on Nov. 28. Those 52 stops rank eighth best in North Dakota state boys high school hockey history. Holland finished No. 21 among goalies in the state with a 6-11-2 record, a 3.5 goals against average and a save percentage of 89.6.

Along with Holland is Jackson Erbstoesser, who should return for his senior year. The goalie only played five games last season, but finished 3-2 overall with a 4.06 goals against average and an 86.4 save percentage.

Leading the Pack

Tim Capouch and Troy Miller are entering their third year as co-coaches of the West Fargo boys hockey team.

Capouch was a Packers assistant coach for five years before getting the co-coaching job and has been involved with North Dakota hockey for 25 years as either a referee, coach or youth scheduler.

Miller spent seven years as an assistant coach at West Fargo before picking up the co-coaching job. He has coached various levels of youth hockey for 13 years and is a past president of the West Fargo Hockey Association.