Three tips: What Devils Lake Girls Hockey must do to succeed this season

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – Rob McIvor is not only excited to see the hockey season get underway. 

The Devils Lake Girls Hockey head coach is also excited to see how his team grows throughout the season. 

A 2-15 record during the 2020-21 campaign is now behind them. Looking ahead, the Firebirds will have the opportunity to fill a couple of voids in the hopes of capitalizing on their bustling youth. 

As their season looks to start and end on their terms, here are three tips the team should keep in mind. 

1. Be patient between the pipes

The Firebirds lost a big piece during the offseason as Molly Black graduated the hockey ranks. Among three Firebird goaltenders last season, Black started in 16 of the team’s 17 games and compiled 702 out of the team’s 737 total saves during the 2020-21 season. Black's 3.38 Goals Against Average (GAA) additionally ranked first on the team. 

With the likes of freshman Deborah Clay and sophomore Mathea Nelson, the Firebirds will look to establish more of a presence on the defensive side as a way to limit the shot output the pair will have to navigate through. 

Devils Lake Girls Hockey head coach Rob McIvor (center) talks with his team during practice.

“Losing Molly Black from last year’s graduation group, we really have to work from the net out,” Devils Lake head coach Rob McIvor said. “We cannot expect any goaltender to save 40, 50 or 60 shots a game. We have to cut that number in half at least.” 

2. Mix and match offensively 

The youth is not solely exclusive to the goaltending side of the ice. It additionally pertains to the forwards and blueliners. With Hannah Houle and Madisyn White now out of the equation, the top line needs filling with younger skaters looking to be the spark plug in place of the two graduated seniors.  

With the team’s leading scorer from a year ago returning in forward Ashlyn Abrahamson (8 G, 5 A last season), McIvor will supplement the sophomore with one of the team’s top defenders in senior Vivianna Kraft. Kraft ranked second on the team in goals (5) and third in points (7) last season. 

“We decided moving one of the defensemen up with Ash [Abrahamson] and then adding another winger would suffice for now,” McIvor said. “Viv [Kraft] can shoot the puck, and she is a big, strong girl. Giving her the puck in the middle of the ice, she is going to shoot it, so that is what we are looking for.” 

The Firebirds will still have depth on the defending side even with Kraft moving into a more utility-oriented role. While the youth and raw potential will need to be refined to a degree, look for the Firebirds to play with line combinations defensive pairings as they strive for consistency on the scoring side of the ice. 

“Then you add the fact that we have three strong D this year, one of which is Siri Olson from Grafton, Julia McIvor, my daughter, and Delaney Wagner, one year older than Julie,” McIvor said. “All three are very strong skaters, can shoot and jump into the play very well.” 

3. Stay sturdy

A younger team, not to mention a smaller one in terms of size and roster depth, will be a difficult field to wade through once the Firebirds get into the meat and potatoes of their schedule. 

Although challenges will present themselves, McIvor believes the team’s grit will pull through. After all, in his mind, the Firebirds are known for their determination to get the job done. 

“It has to be hard work,” McIvor said. “We are short on skaters this year, so there will be a lot of skating. Better puck management. We have to understand that when we are tired, get over the red line, dump it in and get it off quick, so we keep the shifts short enough, so we do not get depleted toward the end of the game.” 

Durability is critical in any sport, and this includes one that constantly involves pairing switches and line changes once every 20-30 seconds. Look for the Firebirds to emphasize center ice awareness as they trade off shifts with the bench.