Back to the state hockey tournament for the Devils Lake boys hockey team.
By Harry Lipsiea
The Devils Lake boys hockey team felt a lot better walking into the locker room after the game than they did entering it during the second intermission Saturday afternoon. Playing in 1-1 deadlock against No. 6 seed Fargo North, the squad's season was on the line in a state qualifier at Purpur Arena in Grand Forks.
A big third period allowed the Firebirds to punch their ticket to the State Class A hockey Tournament beginning Thursday in Fargo. Devils Lake scored two goals in the final period to pull away from Fargo North in a 3-1 victory in the final day of the EDC tourney.
"We had to get after the guys a bit in the locker room going into the third period," third-year Devils Lake head coach Jens Stokke pointed out. "The main thing we talked about was playing with more urgency and just skating the way we're capable of."
The Firebirds are making a return trip to state after a one-year absence. During the 2014-2015 season, the squad finished second at the EDC tournament.
"I'm happy for our kids. They have had a good season. We have been able to accomplish two of our goals. Making to state was very important to this group," Stokke said.
Grand Forks Central 6 Devils Lake 2
The Firebirds got an up-close-and-personal look at the top team in the conference. In the EDC semifinals, Grand Forks Central used a late surge to pull away from Devils Lake in a 6-2 tournament victory.
"There's not much you can say. Grand Forks Central has a great hockey team. They are fast, deep and aggressive," Stokke pointed out.
Devils Lake battled throughout and gave the team some fits early on. The Knights, however, never gave up the lead and responded with two goals anytime the Firebirds scored one.
"Grand Forks Central doesn't quit. They are just very good all around." the coach said. "We were working out there and skating hard, but they were just the better team."
The Knights struck first blood in the opening period. Grand Forks Central got out to a 2-0 lead with goals at 1:48 and 3:52. Devils Lake battled back as Blair Martinson, assisted by Tommy Reslock, scored at 7:14. Central took a 3-1 lead after one period.
The Knights scored at 4:54 to take a 4-1 advantage. Brady Johnson, assisted by Ryyan Reule and Matthew Boren, found the net at 12:46 to get the home team within two goals going into the third period.
Grand Forks Central scored two goals in the third to earn the 6-2 victory.
Wyatt Ness finished with 42 saves. The Knights outshot the Firebirds 48-11.
Devils Lake 3 Fargo North 1
Two goals in the third period were the difference for Devils Lake in the state-qualifying round of the EDC Tournament Saturday.
"We just weren't moving our feet in the first two periods," Stokke said. "In the third, our guys made the plays they had to for us to walk away with the win."
Cole Senkyr, assisted by Brody Vose and Jaydon Grafsgaard, scored at 11:47 to give Devils Lake a 1-0 lead after one period of play.
Fargo North battled back with a goal of its own in the second to knot the game up at one going into the final period.
Matthew Boren scored both goals for the Firebirds in the third stanza. The senior scored at 4:22, assisted by Ryyan Reule and Carson Lovin, and at 10:30, assisted by Craig Peterson. Devils Lake earned the 3-1 victory.
Ness picked up the win between the pipes logging 13 saves.
With the victory, Devils Lake qualified for the state tournament. The Firebirds are set to meet up with Bismarck at 6 p.m. Thursday in Fargo.
Devils Lake owns a prior victory over the WDA's top team. At home, the Firebirds scratched-and-clawed their way to a 1-0 overtime victory.
"It was an awesome game," Stokke said. "We came to play that night. Our defense gave them very few looks and Wyatt (Ness) was on the top of the game. That's what it will take this time around ."
The Firebirds are looking to represent itself well on the state's biggest stage.
"The goal is to go in and have a good showing," Stokke said. "We want to play the best hockey we can."