Dickinson High Midgets boys hockey on roll heading into postseason
Though the West Region boys hockey tournament kicks off today, Dickinson High has felt like it's been in the postseason for the past three weeks.The Midgets could've ended up anywhere from the sixth seed to the tournament's play-in game in that span.
Though the West Region boys hockey tournament kicks off today, Dickinson High has felt like it’s been in the postseason for the past three weeks.
The Midgets could’ve ended up anywhere from the sixth seed to the tournament’s play-in game in that span.
But Dickinson head coach Dallas Kuntz had high expectations.
“We put it on ourselves, I put it on the boys, that No. 6 is where we want to get to,” Kuntz said. “We’ve been in tournament mode for a while now, and I think that’s only going to help us. The sense of urgency has been there.”
The Midgets earned the sixth seed in the West Region tournament and will take on No. 3-seeded Bismarck Century at about 6:30 p.m. today at MAYSA Arena in Minot.
Kuntz said this will be Dickinson’s ninth matchup with Century in three years, with the Patriots winning all but one of those meetings.
In fact, the Midgets and Patriots have seen each other in the opening round of the West Region tournament in each of the past three seasons.
“Century is a team that, over the years, has always had a couple big guns that can really bury the puck,” Kuntz said. “This year, they’re more of a hard-working team. There’s nobody that really stands out. They’ve got a couple good skaters, but other than that they’re a team that’s going to come at you with everything they have.”
The Patriots (11-9-1, 12-2 West Region) defeated Dickinson (8-11, 6-10) in two games during the regular season.
The first game, in which the Midgets were beat 9-2 at the West River Ice Center, Kuntz called a “wake-up call.”
“We learned we’re not talented enough to take a night off and still compete,” Kuntz said. “We got outworked in all three phases. … We got dominated in every phase in that game, and that was a game going into it that I fully expected us to compete and possibly win. We basically learned that if we have one guy that takes a night off, our entire team is going to hurt from it.”
In the second matchup, both teams were tied at 1 with 5 minutes left in the game, but the game ended with a 4-2 Century win after the Patriots tallied a couple empty-net goals.
“We came back, and I think in that game, we learned that with hard work we’re going to be in every game that we play in,” Kuntz said.
Dickinson stayed around .500 through the first half of the season before going a 2-6 losing skid. Now, after finding urgency, Dickinson is on a 3-1 win streak going into postseason play.
Dickinson is led by senior forward Michael McChesney, who is third in the state with 57 points on 32 goals and 24 assists, and junior forward Jerzy Martin, who is 23rd in the state with 35 points on 17 goals and 18 assists.
But Kuntz said his team expected to rely on major contributors to start out the season - and it quickly realized that wouldn’t work.
“Every team, you want to be playing your best hockey going into the tournament,” Kuntz said. “I think our consistency is starting to come around. So I’m excited where we’re at right now.”
Kuntz has preached to his players - he admitted they might even be sick of hearing it - that his team needs to never let off the gas and play every possession like it’s their last in order to beat Century.
He said the game plan is to get pucks on net with quality opportunities, but also crash the net and get traffic in front of the net.
Then hopefully, Kuntz said, Dickinson’s season lives another day.
“In all of my years of coaching and playing, when it comes tournament time, it’s not the beautiful snipe from the slot that wins games,” Kuntz said. “It’s the garbage goals. It’s the dirty work that gets rewarded.”