Tom Mix, Published February 19 2014
West Fargo boys hockey team capitalizes with East Region rebound
Despite a less-than-ideal start to the season, the West Fargo boys hockey team will experience something it has not accomplished in three years.
Today, the Packers (9-15-0) will take the ice at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks as a participant in the North Dakota state tournament. West Fargo – the No. 2 seed from the East Region – plays West Region, No. 3-seeded Bismarck Century (19-5-0) in the quarterfinals at approximately 2:30 p.m.
The last time West Fargo qualified for state was the 2010-2011 season. A 3-9-0 start to this season made it appear as though the Packers’ drought without a state berth would be extended, but a big turnaround at the East Region tournament last week changed all that.
West Fargo entered the region tournament seeded No. 7, but scored victories over Fargo Davies and Grafton-Park River before falling to Grand Forks Central in the championship game.
The win over the Spoilers earned the Packers a state berth, making their poor start months ago seem like a distant memory.
“We are a young team,” senior forward Tyler Berginski said. “We haven’t had a lot of experience at the state tournament, so it was a crazy bus ride home that night. It was a big confidence booster for our team and really helped us out heading into the state tournament.”
Berginski leads the team in goals (16) and points (25). He is followed by junior defenseman Jake Hoy, who has 21 points, including a team-high 18 assists.
“At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of young guys playing, and it took them awhile to get into the flow of things,” Hoy said. “As the year went on, they became more comfortable and now they are playing like seniors.”
Berginski is the only skater on the Packers’ roster that was a member of the 2010-11 squad that made it as far as the state semifinals. He admitted the way this season began was tough.
“When you lose nine games, it is always frustrating,” Berginski said. “We found confidence in our coaches saying the games at the beginning of the season don’t matter, but when it comes to February, all those games do matter, and we played well when we needed to.”
Defense can be credited as a key piece to West Fargo’s turnaround. The Packers only allowed one goal each to Davies and Grafton-PR during the region tournament.
“Lately we have been focusing a lot more on our defense,” senior goaltender Bailey Vareberg said. “It has really come together and has been a team effort.”
West Fargo met Century during the regular season, with the Patriots picking up a 4-2 win on November 23.
“We have to keep playing good defense like we were in the first two games (of the region tournament),” Hoy said. “If we do that, I think we will go deep in this tournament and have a chance at winning it.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562