Firebirds continue to build experience in 11-0 defeat against Fargo Davies

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – The Devils Lake Firebirds had a hefty challenge on their plates Tuesday evening at Burdick Arena. It didn't take a hockey expert to notice it, either - the winless Firebirds were going up against the cream of the girls hockey crop in the Fargo Davies Eagles.

Of course, the Eagles' reputation through the early going of the 2021-22 season spoke for itself. Heading into the Dec. 14 game, the Eagles were 5-0 and were averaging five goals per game. It wasn't a one-skater show, either. Six Eagle skaters already had two goals or more to their credit heading into the contest.

The Devils Lake Firebirds Girls Hockey team comes together for a post-game huddle on Dec. 14.

Balance was Fargo Davies' x-factor, and it was this balance the Eagles utilized en route to an 11-0 shutout victory against the Firebirds on Dec. 14.

The Eagles remain undefeated on the season with the win (6-0). The win is also their largest by margin of victory through six games this season (the team's previous high was seven when they beat Williston, 8-1, on Dec. 10). The Firebirds, meanwhile, remain winless on the season (0-6). Devils Lake has allowed 10 goals or more in four of their six games this season.

In Rob McIvor's mind, a tough stretch has not dissuaded the team. Instead, the season's start has allowed his team to find their positioning. 

Devils Lake goaltender Mathea Nelson (center, white) positions outside the crease against Fargo Davies on Dec. 14.

"That is a really good hockey team," Devils Lake head coach Rob McIvor said after the game. "I was pretty happy with our effort and the way we managed the game. Obviously, the shots were lopsided, and Mathea [Nelson], for her part...a lot of pucks hit her. She caught a lot of pucks. She made some saves she is not used to making sliding side-to-side. She has improved every game so far. She has improved that a little bit. That has to keep going, of course, and then our second-line wingers have to keep improving and our first-line wingers have to improve."

Although the game started on a mild note from Devils Lake's standpoint, the Eagles finally capitalized on their ice time in the offensive zone. The Eagles scored three of their first 11 goals in less than two minutes midway through the first period. 

Two supplementary goals closed out a five-goal performance in the first period for the Eagles. However, a stingier second period helped hold the Eagles to three goals. After senior forward Kylie Autrey tabbed her second goal of the game through the first three minutes of the second period, the Firebirds held the Eagles scoreless for the following 10 minutes. 

The Devils Lake Firebirds and Fargo Davies Eagles fight for the puck after a check on Dec. 14.

To McIvor, it all came down to jumping out in front of the puck and creating more of a security blanket for Nelson inside the crease. 

"The second period especially, we had a lot of stick-on-pucks, their shots were deflected up into the netting or away from our goalie," McIvor said. "We covered the front and the home area in front a lot better than we did in previous games. Both lines did. We do need to worry about cutting into lanes off around the net…we have to worry about that a little bit more. Just skating-wise, how do we get there using active sticks instead of just letting them go into the middle and shoot."

Eight different Eagle skaters scored at least one goal. Leading the way was Autrey, who tallied a hat trick with her late-game snapper with less than eight minutes to go in the third period. The Eagles additionally outshot the Firebirds, 56-9. 

Even still, McIvor was satisfied with what his team showed. With a young roster developing and gaining valuable playing time, it is all about patience. 

In McIvor's mind, this patience must start in their zone and inevitably work its way down to the opposing end. As the Firebirds continue their season, they will look to take this message to heart. 

"What I'm trying to get through to them is positioning and what we do in our end first, and then moving forward down the ice and how we get the puck in transition and into offense," McIvor said.