Boys hockey: Seniors lead Lakers to shutout win over Fergus Falls in season opener
The Detroit Lakes boys hockey team shutout Fergus Falls 4-0 on Saturday afternoon at the Kent Freeman Arena. Seniors led the way as they Lakers took care of business ahead of Tuesday's battle at East Grand Forks.
DETROIT LAKES – Detroit Lakes boys hockey coach Ben Noah wanted to lean on his seniors after three days without practice before the Lakers season-opener against Fergus Falls.
The seniors did the heavy lifting on Saturday.
Detroit Lakes cruised to a 4-0 win over Fergus Falls in a game where seniors tallied six of the team's 11 points.
"I'm very impressed with our leadership group," Noah said. "They set the bar. They were ready to play. I couldn't ask for much more from a coaching perspective to have our leaders have that energy and that urgency into a game."
Cole Larson got the Lakers on the board with his first of the season late in the first period. Aiden Kennedy and Carter Bellefeuille were stuffed by Fergus Fall goaltender, Ben Swanson, leaving Larson an opportunity to clean up the mess off a rebound.
Larson added another point with an assist in the second period. He fed sophomore Tommy Suckert at the point, who scored on a bar-down shot to double the lead.
"Cole has aspirations to play at the next level," Noah said. "We believe he can get there, but he has to play with that spunk and that energy. He tends to stop his feet and hang onto the puck too long. Tonight, you saw firsthand that when he keeps moving his feet, he can make stuff happen."
Detroit Lakes made it 3-0 with 53 seconds left in the second period on a goal from an unexpected shooter. Senior defenseman Jack Turner, who had just two goals last season, found the back of the net on a shot from the point.
"It was a great moment," Noah said. "Jack Turner does everything right. He's an absolute model for what we want kids to come in and do in this program. Do everything right, and good things will happen for you."
Detroit Lakes dominated all facets of play through two periods, including out-shooting Fergus Falls 26-6. Swanson made a handful of impactful saves to keep the Otters within striking distance of the lead.
"He's a good goalie, but at times we made him look a little better than he needed to be," Noah said of Swanson. "There were a couple of high-quality chances, especially in the second period. Carter Bellefeuille, on a short-handed attempt, cut across post-to-post and shot it right into his face mask. Ben Hines had an opportunity where if he just waits it out a little bit longer, the space is there. Credit to their goalie. He played an outstanding game."
Kennedy added a short-handed goal late in the third to seal a 4-0 win. Despite a shutout, Noah wasn't over the moon with how his guys finished the game.
"I loved the first two periods, but I did not love the third," Noah said. "I didn't like how we finished the game. It was kind of that old habit of being satisfied. This team talks about, inside of our locker room, a championship-caliber team. Championship teams don't coast to victory. They find a way to step on the gas and dominate. We had an opportunity to do that tonight, and they let it go."
Senior goaltender Josh Mack wasn't called on often but made 11 saves in the season-opening victory. He halted several grade-A chances to remain undefeated in his varsity career with a 9-0 record.
"We're excited for Josh," Noah said. "This was the perfect game for him as the number one guy. He showed our team that we can be confident in him no matter who we're playing because he plays big, aggressive and without fear."
The Lakers took advantage of Fergus Falls' inability to exit its defensive zone. Detroit Lakes' forwards applied pressure, leading to scoring chances in all three periods.
"We went in the corners and won our 50-50 battles," Larson said. "You can't ask for much more than that. We had a really good forecheck the whole game. Our defense were pinching nice. It's easy to get chances when you pressure like that."
"Our in-zone offense plays so well in a game like this," Noah said. "We like to cycle the puck below the goal line and play behind their net because it's a very dangerous zone to be. Once we can suck their forwards down to help defend, we go low-to-high, crash the net and help retrieve pucks. When a team is in a rebuild like Fergus is in right now, they're going to throw pucks around because it feels like there are six or seven pucks on the ice. That plays really well into our hands."
Detroit Lakes will have a more formidable challenge on Tuesday when they head to East Grand Forks. The Lakers fell 5-4 in overtime to the Green Wave a year ago at the Kent Freeman Arena in their only meeting.
"It means a lot to start the season with a win like this," Larson said. "We've been working hard in practice every day, and we want to keep this going against EGF. We have a great team, and we're good at grinding. We don't really have danglers or anything. We're successful when we work for it."