Midgets flat against West Fargo in home opener
DICKINSON — It was a bleak home game season opener for the Dickinson Midgets girl’s hockey team Dec. 2. Their heads hung low following a brutal 9-2 loss against West Fargo United. The opening day loss comes as the season starts and memories of last year's difficult 4-16 season are still fresh.
West Fargo’s dominant puck possession and frequent capitalizing on powerplays secured the W.
The Midgets welcomed four new faces to the team this season, 8th grade forward KeAna Hendrickson, 8th grade defenseman Heather Tibor, freshman forward Lexy Hall and junior forward Harper Skaare — the latter of whom has traded her figure skates for pads.
The team graduated three senior players last year, Mataya Mortenson, Jenna Moormann and Kenna Eckelberg, leaving this year’s roster with a lone senior in defenseman Sierra Raatz. Dickinson is led by head coach Lance Knudson who is entering his second season with the team.
Opening up the 2022 season on another loss isn’t what the Midgets were hoping for, but Knudson knows that the lessons learned will only make the team stronger down the ice.
“There is a lot of room to grow and the girls know that,” Knudson said. “The year before I got here, they scored 6 goals all year. We are hoping to improve on that. One thing we need to work the most on is learning how to compete hard at practice and in games.”
DHS was down four starting players due to a hip injury, concussions and an illness, and despite the missing players were competitive early.
“I was pretty proud of them though, they emptied the tank,” Knudson said. "Battling those injuries was tough. I think when we are back to full strength, we will have a few more shots on net. It’s just a work in progress. Our passing has to improve a bit, defensive zone coverage has to tighten up.”
Throughout three periods the Midgets would continue to place the puck on goal with 9 shots. It would not be enough, as West Fargo would pound away at the goal with 43 shots on goal. DHS had difficulty capitalizing on their power play opportunities and trailed Fargo's pace the majority of the game.
Fargo drove the puck down center ice early and swarmed the Midgets net, raining shot after shot at DHS junior goal tender Tierney Yoder. Yoder maintained composure under the constant pressure and held off Fargo’s defense over several critical plays. Fargo scored their first goal six minutes into the first period, courtesy of a slap shot by Courtney Docktor who was assisted by Mallory Docktor.
United’s clear communication and teamwork gave them a scoring advantage across the blue line, as they were aggressive in faceoffs to snatch the puck first before controlling the ice with their pass effective offense. Lexy Hall would be the first to put points on the board for DHS, with the help of Shay Finneman to close the first 1-2 for a Fargo lead.
A 44-second penalty by Finneman put Fargo on a power play to open up the second. The Midgets held them from scoring, but it wasn’t long before they wound up in the sin bin. Fargo racked up 5 shots on goal during the power play but didn’t score. A United penalty gave Dickinson a chance to close the score gap, but they struggled to get the puck in front of the Fargo net even with a 5 on 4 advantage. Two back-to-back goals by Fargo put the Midgets in a challenging situation.
Dickinson’s Raatz chucked a puck across the ice that rolled by the Fargo goalie’s right skate. Still down by two, DHS had work to do. Penalties for roughing and crosschecking slammed them into the Plexiglas prison again giving United a doorway to victory.
By the third period, Fargo had turned on the gas full throttle. The Midgets left goal after goal unanswered and continued to chase the puck up and down the ice. With one minute left they were down seven points.
Knudson says he thinks the girls were confident going into the game after almost beating West Fargo in their second encounter last season, but they couldn’t match Fargo’s speed and offensive aggression. With this loss, the Midgets aim to keep spirits high for their next match against West Fargo December 3 at West River Ice Center.
“We are big on trying to build up our team culture and trying to make it a positive experience for the girls no matter what the scoreboard says,” Knudson said.