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Lakers hit the road for quarterfinal showdown in Hallock Thursday

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The No. 5 Detroit Lakes boys hockey team faces its first elimination game taking on the No. 4 Kittson County Central Bearcats Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m., in the Section 8A quarterfinals at Hallock Ice Arena. Robert Williams / Tribune

The No. 5 Detroit Lakes boys hockey team will pile on the bus for the long ride north for the rubber game of the season with the No. 4 Kittson County Central Bearcats at Hallock Ice Arena Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m.

The teams split two games each winning on home ice.

The Bearcats came to DL and took it to the Lakers winning 5-2 in early December. By the time the schedule came back around it was Detroit Lakes winning in overtime 2-1 in late January.

Both teams have been solid down the stretch. KCC (17-7) has won seven of the last 10 games; DL (14-9-2) nine of the last 10.

“The way we have been playing recently, if we play like that we feel really good about what the result is going to be,” said DL head coach Ben Noah.

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Noah’s Lakers have extra momentum after knocking off No. 10A Little Falls to finish off the regular season. The Lakers have been playing structured and disciplined hockey down the stretch.

DL is also deeper than KCC.

“As long as we can shut down their top line, we should wear them down over the course of the game,” Noah said. “We should handle that game.”

KCC has six players with 30 or more points led by leading scorer Calvin Hanson (40G, 27A) and Tyler Hennen (21-36) and Adam Gustafson (23-31).

By way of comparison, DL’s leading scorer is Alex Bren with 32 points.

Like most playoff games, special teams will be huge. DL’s advantage to roll more lines should come into play if DL defenders can keep the Bearcats’ snipers at bay.

“We’re going to be the better team,” Noah said.

The Lakers not only finished the season streaking winning nine of 10, DL posted three straight shutouts to end the campaign blanking Northern Lakers 3-0 and Park Rapids 9-0 before the win at Little Falls. Wadena-Deer Creek was the last team to score against DL on Jan. 30.

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That goal in overtime by Austyn Oothoudt is the only stain in the last 10 games - a letdown loss to the 8-17-1 Wolverines. That is not the time of game Noah expects from his kids. The Lakers and Bearcats know the importance of a trip to the section semifinals and the KCC barn will be rocking with a home quarterfinal game for the first time in two decades.

For Noah and Detroit Lakes, it is what the team has been playing for. One of Noah’s go-to phrases all year was the team was not results driven. The Lakers were preparing for the future during the regular season.

That’s now out the window and it’s win or go home Thursday night.

“It is imperative for the framework of how much effort that this entire season has taken from the coaching staff to the players to the parents and team managers and everybody being on the same page of where we want to go as a program,” said Noah. “It’s really important that we get that win, but to be 100 percent honest, whether or not we get that result, we’re going to look at the big picture. It’s been a really successful season and we’re really excited about next year and the year after.”

Robert Williams has been a sports editor for Forum Communications in Perham and Detroit Lakes since 2011.
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