Detroit Lakes Bantam A Hockey: team breaks state drought
Over the course of the last two years, the Detroit Lakes Bantam A hockey team had plenty of experience playing their way to tournament championships games.
The only problem occurred was actually finishing it off, which resulted in DL going a combine 1-4 in title games in 2012.
But things changed drastically in 2013 for the Laker Bantam A’s, which returned the majority of their players from last season and the experience of playing in those championship games.
What resulted was history for the DL youth hockey program, as the Bantam A’s turned the corner and went 3-1 in title tilts, including a state berth – the first-ever state appearance by any Laker youth hockey team.
“I’m still trying to get my head around that,” said assistant captain and defenseman Josh Bollig. “It’s hard to take in that we are the first-ever team to make state.”
Although it’s been a very long dry spell for a DL youth hockey team to make it to the next level, it’s not all too surprising this group of Bantams did just that.
Laker head coach Ben Noah, who is a DL native and played through the youth hockey program and was a main contributor for the Laker varsity team during his time in high school, said his team took the appropriate steps to climbing the ladder to success.
“Last year, we played to the regions and I thought we had a good chance of winning it,” Noah said. “So I told the guys this year, we should be able to make state. These guys had good experience playing in the big games and they believed they could make it all the way.”
The Laker Bantam squad will open the state tournament Friday, March 15, against East Grand Forks in Buffalo, starting at 6 p.m.
The tournament is a single elimination one, with the semifinals Saturday at 4 and 6 p.m., with the finals Sunday at 1:45 p.m.
All games will be played in Buffalo. Match-ups include Mahtomedi versus Hutchinson; Crow River against Thief River Falls; East Grand Forks versus Detroit Lakes and Sartell facing Edina.
The Lakers also had to use every ounce of their talent and skill to survive the regional tournament, which was played March 1-3, at Anoka Arena.
DL lost to Hopkins 5-4 in the opening round, thus forcing the Lakers to win their next four games to qualify for state as the runner-up.
They did just that by outscoring their next four opponents by an 18-5 margin.
The state run included wins over Princeton (4-1), Spring Lake Park (5-1), Armstrong/Cooper (3-1) and the rematch against Hopkins for the final state slot by the score of 6-2.
Crow River won the tourney by going undefeated.
“We just turned it on after losing to Hopkins,” Noah said. “The kids just did the little things right. They blocked shots, took quality shots in (opponents’) zone and they especially used their fore check well.
“Everything the coaches preached in practice, the players did it in the tournament.”
The first line for the Lakers was especially potent throughout the season, where they racked up an impressive record of 39-13-2.
Centers Jon Richards and Jacob Anderson each were deadly around the net, as the former netted over 82 goals and the latter 27 goals this past season.
“Jacob really turned it on in the regions, he was really driving to the net,” Noah added.
With a dozen players back from last year’s team, chemistry and depth were the keys for the Lakers’ run.
“We trust each other and I couldn’t score without the other guys’ assists,” Richards said. “Assists are just as important as scoring.”
With their backs against the wall after their loss to Hopkins in the first round, the DL team’s confidence didn’t take a hit.
“We knew the next game was going to be important and one we should win,” said assistant captain Andrew Dahl. “After that, things just started rolling for us.”
Noah used a rotation at goalie between Austin Fritz and Carson Sonstegard, who each combined for 12 shutouts.
Fritz took over the goalie duties in each the District and Region playoffs and was a key factor in the dominating play.
“They are both second-year Bantams and know how the game goes,” Noah said of his two goalies. “They also have a lot of confidence in the defense in front of them and know if they let one in, their teammates will be there to pick them up.”
Scoring comes with shooting the puck and shooting the puck well.
Noah sees that all his players can shoot the puck.
“Our defensemen are taught to shoot the puck well and we coaches preach to hit the net with every shot,” Noah added.
Now that history has been made and the 2012-13 Bantam A team has snapped the state-less streak, they are on to bigger and better things.
“We’ve already beat the No. 3 and 4 teams in the state this season, so we feel we can beat anyone,” said assistant captain Sam Boomgarden. “Our goal is to make the championship game, and then anything can happen after that.”
A state championship is the next step to take for the DL youth hockey program.
As this year’s Laker Bantam A team has proven, reaching their goals by scoring lots of goals is the way to go.
Pep rally on Monday from 6-7p.m. at the Kent Freeman arena.
Austin Fritz (goalie stats) - 29 games, (21-6-2) 91.9% saves
Carson Sonstegard (goalie stats)
24 games= (18-6) 87.5% saves
TOP 5 SCORERS
Jon Richards: 82 goals, 46 assists/ 128 points; Sam Boomgaarden: 38 goals, 33 assists/ 71 points; Andrew Dahl: 16 goals, 37 assists/ 53 points; Josh Bollig : 16 goals, 30 assists/ 46 points; Jacob Anderson: 27 goals, 16 assists/ 43 points.