Dave Zimmerman thought his Firebirds could be a 500-level hockey team heading into Christmas break, but two more losses this weekend against Fargo North and Dickinson now has Devils Lake four games under that mark.
Following Saturday afternoon’s 4-3 home loss to the Midgets, Devils Lake dropped to 3-7 on the year, including a 0-5 record against EDC opposition. The Dickinson loss was the team’s third in its last four games.
The Firebirds need to regroup, and they’ll have an opportunity during the holiday break to rest up, heal up and figure out exactly what they hope to accomplish this season, because right now, despite the team’s struggles in recent years, it is clear that Devils Lake Boys Hockey was hoping to accomplish something special this season.
They still have more than enough time to recover from what has been a somewhat disappointing start, but they need to start winning, sooner rather than later, because the EDC teams above them in the district standings aren’t waiting around for them to catch up.
This group has the talent, but the players need to match that talent with effort and determination on the ice, to play the game with passion and energy, according to Zimmerman. Passion is something that the Devils Lake coaching staff has stressed all season long.
They didn’t see that over the weekend, and it showed.
“At this point, I’m not sure where the passion is at,” Zimmerman said. “Poor starts are making things more difficult for us to regroup. I really thought we would be a 500 team at the break, and we are not, which bothers me.”
Devils Lake kicked off the weekend with an EDC bout against Fargo North, a team ranked just ahead of them in the district standings, which made it a winnable affair for the Firebirds on their home ice. Unfortunately for the Devils Lake fans in attendance, they witnessed another disappointing Firebirds result, marred by a 3-0 first period start from the Spartans en route to a 7-4 Devils Lake loss.
In fact, it was 4-0 in favor of the visitors before Matthew Boren notched Devils Lake’s first goal of the game, assisted by Chris Dahlen.
Senior Austin Moser tallied yet another goal to bring the Firebirds to within two goals late in the second period, but Devils Lake could never recover. Moser scored another goal in the third, assisted by Boren, and Cole Thompson notched the home team’s final goal five minutes into the final frame.
The following day, the Firebirds were preparing for Dickinson, a team, like Devils Lake, that had its fair share of problems last season following their last-place finish in the West Region.
Page 2 of 3 - It was another winnable game for the Firebirds, and once again, they came out on the losing end. But this time, it wasn’t a slow start led to the loss.
Devils Lake had the upper hand early on, taking a two goal lead midway through the first period thanks to a pair of goals from Lukas LaMotte and Moser, who scored their goals within 12 seconds of each other.
However, Dickinson mounted an even quicker response just two minutes later. Goals from Matt Pavek and Kass Dvorak tied the game at two with just nine seconds separating the two tallies.
After a scoreless second period, Logan Kraft put the Firebirds back in front just 16 seconds into the third, but it would be the last goal Devils Lake could manage. Unfortunately for the home team, Dickinson managed two, including the game-winner from Alex Turcotte with less than ten minutes remaining in the game.
Both games were winnable for Devils Lake, games that could have seen the team’s record boosted to a very respectable 5-5 mark. Now, the team is left four games under-500 heading into the holiday break amid a wave of frustration and a host of unresolved problems.
Zimmerman has said since day one that he wanted to put Devils Lake Hockey back on the map, to have his team be challenging for a place in the state tournament at the end of the season.
That isn’t an impossible task for this group to accomplish, according to the Devils Lake coaching staff, but at 3-7, the entire group has plenty of work ahead of it.
“I think the players need to figure out how far they want to go,” Zimmerman said. “As far as our state tournament hopes, we have to find a way to move up the standings, which is going to be difficult for us. We need to chart a different route now.”
Should the players’ intensity level increase a bit in the next few weeks, particularly with the team coming back rested and healthy, Devils Lake fans could see the Firebirds go on a productive second-half run.
But it’s not going to be easy for the Firebirds right out of the gate as they prepare for Grafton/Park River, followed by tough road match ups against teams like Red River, Davies and Fargo South in the near future.
For now, the Firebirds are thankful for the time they’ll have to rest up before resuming their regular season schedule, but if they are to realize their postseason ambitions this year, they better come back ready to play.
The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 2 at Burdick Arena for another EDC showdown between Devils Lake and Grafton/Park River.
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