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Published February 10 2011

Clark: Fergus Falls girls hockey finding success on the ice

Top seed or not, things are looking pretty good for the Fergus Falls High School girls hockey team.

Fergus Falls’ strong year comes under first-year head coach and former Minnesota Gophers star Matt Koalska. The Otters finished Class 1A, Section 6 with a 5-0 record and finished 12-11-2 in the regular season.

Plus, the Otters are ranked No. 13 in the latest Class 1A girls hockey poll.

“Coming in, the girls had to be comfortable with me and I had to be comfortable with them,” Koalska said. “I try to develop a relationship where it wasn’t so much player-coach, but player-player because I was a player, too.”

Koalska and his staff, which includes his wife, spent a good bit of the season discussing life lessons like perseverance before getting into fundamentals.

That, in turn, resulted in the team getting more comfortable with each other and going on a strong section run.

One can argue that the Otters season is a bit of a surprise. Yes, Koalska is a first-year head coach, but remember, Fergus Falls was at state two years ago.

So winning section is a possibility, but there’s a challenge that comes with it. That challenge being Morris-Benson Area, which finished 21-3 and 6-1 in section.

Morris-Benson Area’s lone section loss came to Alexandria, a team that Fergus Falls beat twice.

“I haven’t heard a whole lot about them.” Koalska said of Morris-Benson. “But looking at the numbers, you have to stop that top line.”

Good luck.

That top line includes Dani Schultz, who leads the state with 117 points (73 goals, 44 assists) in just 24 games. Her big season isn’t a fluke either. She’s scored 403 points in her career at Morris-Benson Area.

Facing that type of challenge goes back to what Koalska was reinforcing earlier in the season about perseverance.

“We’ve told our girls that no matter what is around them,” he said, “they have to be ready to go and prepare themselves to go into battle and compete and play together as a team.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548 or at rclark@forumcomm.com