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Grand Forks state of mind: Jamestown first step in Midgets’ quest for third consecutive state appearance

Days after an embarrassing 10-3 loss in their home finale against Minot on Feb. 3, the Dickinson High boys hockey team desperately needed to regroup.

Dickinson senior defender Chris Zubke drives towards the net against Bottineau-Rugby on Saturday, Jan. 20 from the West River Ice Center. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)
Dickinson senior defender Chris Zubke drives towards the net against Bottineau-Rugby on Saturday, Jan. 20 from the West River Ice Center. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)

Days after an embarrassing 10-3 loss in their home finale against Minot on Feb. 3, the Dickinson High boys hockey team desperately needed to regroup.

With postseason hockey right around the corner and his team exhibiting a lack of preparedness, head coach Dallas Kuntz called for a meeting in an attempt to reel in his kids. The result so far has been to his liking.

"Early last week, we had to have a little 'Coming-to-Jesus' party with the boys just about the focus, effort, and being prepared for practice," Kuntz said. "(I've) been pleased the last few days. I think the guys see the writing on the wall and what's ahead of them. There's been a lot of compete in practice. As a high school coach, that's all you can ask for."

In their regular season finale on Feb. 10, the Midgets defeated Williston 5-1, bringing their record to 7-7 against West Region opponents. They will enter the this week's WDA regional tournament as the fourth seed and will face Jamestown on Thursday, the only opening round match in the state featuring teams that have split the season series.

The Blue Jays collected a close 2-1 victory on Jan. 6 from the West River Ice Center before Dickinson returned the favor with a 5-3 road victory ten days later.

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"I think it just proves that we are pretty evenly matched," Kuntz said. "We've all beaten the teams we are suppose to beat and split with each other. I think it's going to be a good game, but if we take care of what we need to do, we'll be a confident group."

Jamestown features four players who have amassed at least 20 points, led by senior forward Devin Hoffman, who scored 21 goals and piled up 12 assists on the season. He is tied for 10th in the state in points with three other players, including Dickinson junior forward Cody Shepard.

Between the pipes, Jamestown senior goaltender Matthew Schneider led the WDA with 11 wins, sporting a 3.19 goals against average and a 91.6 save percentage. "Goaltending is a huge strength of theirs," Kuntz added.

A point of emphasis for the Midgets throughout the tournament is not letting their physical style of play lead to debilitating penalties. Dickinson led the WDA with 264 penalty minutes and are one of two teams (Minot) who served more time in the penalty box than their opponents.

"I think it depends on who stays out of the [penalty] box more really," senior defender and captain Chris Zubke said. "That was our biggest concern playing them here when we were at home."

Following a 16-year absence beginning at the start of the millennium, Dickinson will attempt to make its third consecutive appearance at the state tournament, which this year takes place at Grand Forks.

Junior forward and captain Ryan Bren has been a key member of the two teams able to qualify for the big dance and believes a third trip is well within reach as long as the team executes what's within their control.

"We've been focusing on what we need to accomplish at WDA to get to states," Bren said. "We've just been trying to keep our mentality up and make sure that we have positive mindsets going into regionals."

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Dickinson High junior forward Ryan Bren loads up a shot against Rapid City (S.D.) on Dec. 27 from the West River Ice Center (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)
Dickinson High junior forward Ryan Bren loads up a shot against Rapid City (S.D.) on Dec. 27 from the West River Ice Center (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)

Related Topics: DICKINSON HIGH SCHOOLDICKINSON MIDGETS
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