Mustangs boys hockey on winning track after beating rival Packers
The West Fargo and West Fargo Sheyenne boys hockey teams shared the West Fargo Sports Arena ice this season. When they took the ice to play against each other on Tuesday, Jan. 30, the Packers were the home team on the scoreboard. But the Mustangs claimed the ice was theirs.
After beating the Packers earlier in the season in their first ever rivalry matchup, the Mustangs once again beat the Packers in a 4-2 East Region victory.
"I just feel really good right now. It's really relieving," Mustangs senior Josh Jaskowski said with a smile. "We just have to keep grinding at practice."
After a scoreless first period, the two teams exchanged blows true to a rivalry. Sheyenne leading scorer Sterling Morin scored his first of two goals in the first minute of the second period. Brayden Jacobson, the Packers leading scorer, replied right back with a goal of his own just 33 seconds later. Jacobson had 10 goals and five assists for the season after the game.
The Packers took a brief lead about two minutes later on a Chase Forthun goal, but Jaskowski scored about three minutes after that to tie the game back up. Morin scored again late in the second period to put himself in a tie for eighth in the state scoring standings this season with 17 goals and 13 assists for 30 points.
Brady Kellerman scored in the third period to give the Mustangs a two-goal lead they wouldn't relinquish. Mustangs goalie Cole Nissen finished the game with 22 saves while Packers goalie Gabe Pederson ended with 44 saves.
"The mistakes we made, they capitalized on," Forthun said. "Tempers go up. Since we all know each other, it's just fun to hit each other."
Having played together when they were younger, Kellerman was familiar with some players from the younger Packers squad. The game was physical and included some extracurricular shoving, but Kellerman said some of that is to be expected between rivals.
"I'm speechless. I don't know what to say," Kellerman said with a smile. "We've been saying all week that this is our house."
The Packers were 3-16 overall and 1-13 in the East Region after the loss to Sheyenne. West Fargo also went 3-19-1 overall last year. Co-head coach Tim Capouch believes the split of the programs has made things tough for both teams. He expects the Packers to hit the weight room and get stronger this offseason.
The Packers play their last regular season game on Thursday, Jan. 8, at home against Grand Forks Central before the postseason begins.
"We're night and day better then how we started," Capouch said. "All the players are adapting to the speed of the game and the physical play."
Since the Packers didn't have any seniors this year, Forthun believes his team will have a strong chemistry next season with their returners. He has a feeling the Packers could call the West Fargo Sports Arena's ice theirs by next season.
"It's been a pretty tough season, but we work every game and try to do the best we can and don't quit," Forthun said. "We're just going to keep improving and get better together."
The Mustangs were 7-11-1 and 4-9-1 in the East Region after beating the Packers and had won four of their last five games and tied the other game after the rivalry win. They play their last regular season game at Fargo Davies on Thursday.
Jaskowski said the Mustangs, who started the season on a six-game losing skid, didn't click in the beginning of the season. But Jaskowski said the Mustangs, in their first year as a program, have settled in after so much change during the offseason.
"From here on out, I think it's turned around," Jaskowski said. "Tonight was definitely a statement to show them this is our arena."
The Mustangs' outlook at the beginning of the season was negative, Kellerman said, but the Mustangs are now optimistic down the stretch.
"We're keeping our heads up. We used to get down in games," Kellerman said. "We're getting back now and shooting the puck."
FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.
SECOND PERIOD: 1, WFS, Morin (Hiemer), 1:00. 2, WF, Jacobson, 1:33. 3, WF, Forthun (Brunette, Prochnow), 3:36, pp. 4, WFS, Jaskowski (Morin), 6:24. 5, WFS, Morin (Kramer), 16:21.
THIRD PERIOD: 6, WFS, Kellerman (Jaskowski), 4:21.
SAVES: WFS, Nissen 9-3-10--22; WF, Pederson 16-11-17--44.