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Midgets use physicality to blank Mandan

Dickinson High sophomore Joseph Pavek backhands a short-handed goal into the net against Mandan on Thursday, Jan. 11 at the West River Ice Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
Dickinson High senior forward Peter Pavek works the puck around a Mandan defender on Thursday, Jan. 11 at the West River Ice Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

Three minutes and 17 seconds into the second period, Dickinson senior defender Chris Zubke went to the box for interference, putting Mandan on the power play. Under pressure, the Braves couldn't get the puck out of their own zone.

Midget sophomore forward Joseph Pavek pushed the puck off a Braves stick in the slot, gained control, and backhanded the puck past the goaltender.

Including his short-handed goal, Pavek ended the night with three points, aiding the Dickinson High boys hockey team in their 6-0 win over Mandan on Thursday, Jan. 11 at the West River Ice Center.

"Everybody played with a lot of spunk and a lot of jam," Dickinson head coach Dallas Kuntz said. "That's what we need moving forward."

Junior forward Cody Shepard, who also ended the night with three points, sparked the offense with a goal just 23 seconds into the game.

"We just came right off the faceoff, got down in their zone quick," Shepard said. "The cycle behind the net just opened everything up. The ice just opened up right in the slot. I got a pass through the middle and it just went in."

The Midgets (7-6) outskated and overpowered the Braves (4-7-1) with their physicality and speed. The thud of players hitting the boards echoed frequently.

"We didn't show up to play," Mandan head coach Leif Mattson said. "They have a good team and they capitalized on all their opportunities and we couldn't do anything. We have a young team and call it the intimidation factor a bit, but they dominated that."

The Midgets' aggression and hits may have rattled Mandan, but resulted in eight penalties.

The penalty kill stayed perfect all night, not allowing the Braves to break through despite their efforts.

"That's one thing we did really well," Mattson said. "We moved the puck very well on the power play. I'd like to see more shots. We kind of forced them. They got some blocked shots but that was the only thing we could do right, along with our goalie."

Mandan goalie Aaron Blowers made 35 stops on the night.

He allowed two by him in the first; Shepard's goal, along with another from sophomore defender Jaren Hugelen. Pavek's short-handed goal was one of three in the second frame. Shepard pitched his second by Blowers and assisted Ryan Bren on a goal as well. Pavek netted one more 3:07 into the third.

Dickinson junior goaltender Riley Wittenberg turned away the 14 shots he saw.

"That's the hardest game for a goaltender to be in, when you don't see much action," Kuntz said. "We expected that at the beginning. We told him we fully expect to spend a lot of time in the yellow zone forechecking. He made saves when he had to, killed off penalties. It's definitely a confidence booster for him and the whole team."

The defense not only blocked shots, and kept the Braves off the board, but also helped the forwards succeed. Defenders shifted along the blue line while the Midgets looked for an open shot, tracking the puck and keeping it in the zone when needed. Dickinson held possession for up to minutes at a time because of their ability to stop the puck at the blue line and regain control. Kuntz named communication as the reason his team saw so much time on the offensive end and Shepard agreed.

"Communication is the biggest key, especially in the offensive zone," Shepard said. "Just knowing where your players are and getting it to them."

Following a two game losing streak, the Midgets needed a change. Kuntz shifted sophomore defender Austin Raatz to the second line with Joseph and Peter Pavek. While he didn't earn one himself, his presence next to his linemates helped them earn a combined five points.

"He's a young kid. We put him in a pretty prominent role with the two Pavek brothers," Kuntz said. "He just did his job, no complaints. It's kind of tough when you're a defense and you get, 'hey, you're playing forward this week.' I just think top to bottom it was a team effort."

Dickinson 6, Mandan 0

M 0 0 0 — 0

D 2 3 1 — 6

FIRST PERIOD: 1, D, Cody Shepard (Chris Zubke), 0:23. 2, D, Jaren Hugelen, 6:28.

SECOND PERIOD: 3, D, Joseph Pavek (Peter Pavek), 4:01. 4, D, Shepard (J. Pavek, P. Pavek), 5:33. 5, D, Ryan Bren (Hugelen, Shepard), 9:19.

THIRD PERIOD: 6, J. Pavek, 3:07.

SAVES: M, Aaron Blowers 17-8-10—35. D, Riley Wittenberg, 4-5-5—14.

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