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Midgets look to grow with returning nucleus

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson High junior Rachel Lantz, middle, chases the puck between a pair of Mandan defenders on Jan. 10 at the Dickinson Recreation Center.

The roster for the Dickinson High girls hockey team from last year to this year only has one major difference.

A new head coach — Al Takle.

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As far as player personnel is concerned, not much as has changed. The Midgets didn’t lose any players to graduation and they have a couple new additions to the team.

With the 17 players returning with varsity experience, Dickinson has increased its expectations for this season. The Midgets open their season against Sidney, Mont., at 5:15 p.m. Thursday.

“Having the same team as last year is a really good team booster,” Dickinson junior forward Rachel Lantz said. “It boosts morale and everybody knows each other.

“Since everybody worked together last year, we know how each other plays and we can just work really well together.”

The Midgets finished with a 1-19 overall record and 0-17 statewide last season. Dickinson’s lone win was a 2-1 victory against Watford City, which is a non-statewide team, on Dec. 20. In the previous three seasons, Dickinson has won a total of five games — the most wins came in 2011 when the team finished with three.

Takle’s main message in early part of the season is to forget the past and look toward the future. He’s also focusing on a continual maturation on his roster from top to bottom.

Dickinson’s roster — which consists of juniors, sophomores and freshmen — has many players with at least two or three years of varsity experience.

“We are pretty young,” Takle said. “We only have three seniors. There are only a couple new girls on the team, so we are growing. The parts of the game that we are trying to get better at is understanding the game better and why things are happening on the ice, so we can react to situations.”

“The biggest thing that we’ve been working on is the change of culture,” Talke said. “We’ve been struggling to get wins and we are trying to get past that. Trying to figure out how to take that next step and be competitive.”

Lantz and senior forward McKenna Love are the captains. Love, who finished with four goals last season, said it’s a privilege to be a captain.

“It’s a really big honor, especially as a senior,” Love said. “I’m very happy that my teammates trust me to be a captain.”

The leading scorer for the Midgets last season was Lantz with five goals and five assists. The junior forward was on the top line last year with sophomore Kira Zastoupil and junior Kayla Wallace. Zastoupil ended the season with five goals and three assists, while Wallace had five goals and two assists.

The Midgets return their starting goaltender in senior Paige Fahlstrom. In her junior season, she finished with a 1-14 record and 84.4 save percentage.

Over the last two seasons, Dickinson has shown flashes of potential from period to period, but weren’t able to put complete games together. Lantz and Love know the potential is there, they just have to maintain focus all game.

“We had certain games where we really stepped it up, played really well together and scored goals,” Lantz said. “Hopefully, we can start from there this season and continue on.”

Love added: “I really do see the potential. I can see us winning a few games if we play our hardest. We can play an entire game. We’ve been working really hard as a team. A lot of us having been showing up for stuff more, because we all really want to do better this year.”

Takle is the fourth different head coach since 2009. Though he’s a first-year head coach at the varsity level, Takle has coached many of the players which are currently on varsity at the lower levels. He remembers coaching Love when she was a fourth-grader.

“I’ve been around the program for a long time,” he said. “I knew most of the girls before this year. It’s fun when you take those incremental steps and see improvements.”

Love can already see a different philosophy around the team this year.

“He’s really on top of things and he’s got us doing certain things as a team and as individuals,” Love said. “I think he’s going to be a really good coach this year.”

Dickinson Midgets

Head coach: Al Takle (1st year)

Last season: 1-19, 0-17 Statewide

Returners: McKenna Love, Sr.; Cassidy Goodrich, Sr.; Paige Fahlstrom, Sr.; Rachel Lantz, Jr.; Kelsey Gillen, Jr.; Kayla Wallace, Jr.; Victoria Kuntz, Jr.; Brittany Chamberlain, Jr.; Kira Zastoupil, So.; Hallie Hoffer, So.; Abby Wandler, So.; Kelsey Calhoun, So.; Breanna Jordan, So.; Caleigh Davenport, Fr.; Codie Myers, Fr.; Paige Schweitzer, Fr.; Breanna Chamberlain, Fr.

Newcomers: Kennadee Fritz, Jr.; Amaya Johnson, So.

Losses: none.