Shepard, Wittenberg lead Midgets to senior night win over Williston
Before its home finale against Williston, the Dickinson High School boys hockey team honored its 10 seniors as the players were joined on the ice with their loved ones. When the game was over, two seniors were instrumental in the Midgets' 13th victory of the 2018-19 campaign.
Senior forward Cody Shepard knocked in a pair of goals in the second period while senior goaltender Riley Wittenberg nearly recorded a shutout during a 3-1 triumph over the Coyotes on Saturday, Feb. 9, from the West River Ice Center.
Following a scoreless first period, the Midgets began the second frame on the penalty kill after Shepard was sent to the box for kneeing. Down a man on the ice, forward Joey Pavek ignited the home team's offensive efforts. Twice during the Williston power play, the junior speedster raced up the boards, creating scoring chances. Later during the kill, Pavek delivered a twisting shot in front that was stopped by Coyotes sophomore netminder Keegan McLain.
Midway through the frame, Pavek won a faceoff in the Dickinson zone and delivered a pass out to Shepard, who immediately launched a wrist shot by McLain for the game's opening score.
"The center, Joey Pavek told me he was going to win the faceoff right back to me and I told him I was going to throw it to the far-side pad and hope for a rebound. It went in," Shepard said.
In the closing moments of the frame, senior Tanner Giese elevated a saucer pass from the defensive zone to center ice. Shepard pulled it down with his gloved hand and raced up the ice with a one-on-one scoring chance. After faking to McLain's right, Shepard finished to his left, doubling the Midgets lead with his second score of the period.
"Everybody before the game was just mentally prepared," Shepard said. "The seniors are graduating and all the younger guys supported us the whole game. It was just all-around teamwork, it wasn't just the seniors that came out ready to go. Everyone came out ready to play and it showed on the ice."
Early in the third, Pavek was finally rewarded for his hustle. Hauling in a pass from senior defender Morgan Wardner, the junior made a move on a Coyotes defender before beating the goalie glove side.
"Joey is a game-changer when he wants to be, he really is," Midgets head coach Dallas Kuntz said. "He's somebody that's kind of a catalyst for us. ... He's a jump-start for us and we're going to need him going forward if we are going to be successful. Guys like Joey are going to have to put the puck in the net for us."
While the offense built a commanding lead, Wittenberg made sure it wasn't squandered, making critical saves in the third to keep the opponent at bay.
With three minutes remaining, Williston called a timeout and pulled its goalie, creating a 6-on-5 advantage. A minute and a half later, senior forward Chris Sathe put the visitors on the board with a shot from the point. For Coyotes head coach Tyler Jundt, it was too little, too late.
"Real disappointed in the way that we played to be real honest," Jundt said. "I thought overall, it was a really ugly hockey game for this time of the year where teams should be expected to be clicking and playing their best hockey of the year. I didn't like our effort at all."
McLain, who was removed after suffering an apparent leg injury following Pavek's goal, finished with 14 saves. Wittenberg had 13 saves in the victory, and although he just missed out on the shutout, he was happy to be given the start and pick up the win.
"Getting this start means a lot senior year. This place has always been great to me," Wittenberg said. "When I was younger, I always thought this day was not going to come for a long time. But it feels like the days have passed and I was put here. It's just a great feeling to do this well at this point of the season and make it all this way."
Sealing the No. 5 seed in the West Region Tournament, Dickinson will continue its quest for a fourth consecutive trip to state with a quarterfinal matchup against No. 4 Jamestown on Thursday, Feb. 14.
The Blue Jays have gotten the better of the Midgets in a pair of overtime contests this season. Is Dickinson eager for round three?
"Ding, ding, ding," Kuntz said with a chuckle. "I think our locker room is in a good place right now heading into tournament time. Lucky for us, we have five days to kind of heal up, preparing for Jamestown. ... I like where we're at and I'm excited to get another opportunity at them."
Dickinson 3, Williston 1
W 0 0 1 — 1
D 0 2 1 — 3
FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.
SECOND PERIOD: 1, D, Cody Shepard (Joey Pavek), 6:43. 2, D, Shepard (Tanner Giese), 14:43.
THIRD PERIOD: 3, D, Pavek (Morgan Wardner), 2:58. 1, W, Chris Sathe (Denver Sheets, Jackson Ekblad), 15:17.
SAVES: W, Keegan McLain 3-9-2—14, Jay Lambert x-x-3—3. D, Riley Wittenberg 3-4-6—13.