Firebirds unable to capitalize on opportunities in 4-2 loss to No. 2 Minot
By Sam Herder
The Devils Lake boys hockey team (7-10) had its chances. The Firebirds came out aggressive against No. 2 Minot (16-3), but they just couldn’t seem to find the net in parts of the 4-2 loss Saturday in Burdick Arena.
“Our power play needs to be a lot better than it is right now,” Firebirds head coach Jens Stokke said. “We had a good power play at the beginning of the year, now this last half it hasn’t been working for us. That needs to start getting better and getting pucks in the net.”
Devils Lake brought the defensive pressure in the first period and was the aggressor to start. Three power plays had the Firebirds playing on their offensive end for most of the period.
But Minot was sharp defensively and made it tough in traffic for Devils Lake to find the net.
The Magicians finally got to control things on offense with a power play with less than four minutes to go in the first period. Ten seconds into the power play, Easton Bennett assisted in a Logan Bischof goal as Minot struck first.
Cooper Knoke got things going for DL’s offense in the second. The senior forward got his first of two goals six-and-half minutes into the second period with the assist from Ryyan Reule and Matt Boren.
Devils Lake had two more power play opportunities in the next four minutes, but were unable to take the lead.
“It wasn’t so much the goalie, they were great at blocking shots all night,” Stokke said. “It was harder to get shots to the net through all those guys and through the goalie.”
Bennett began to put his stamp on the game from there. He gave Minot a 2-1 lead with five minutes and change left in the second period. He then scored again two minutes into the third period as the Magicians built a 3-1 lead.
Knoke gave the Firebirds a chance when he won a 1-on-1 battle with Minot goalie Kross Braaten.
Knoke found open ice, gave Braaten a fake to the right and went top shelf to his left to make it 3-2 with 12 minutes, 34 seconds remaining.
“I expect that out of Cooper,” Stokke said. “He has a lot of talent. He can really make a great presence out there and get the puck in the net and finish.”
But Minot was able to put any upset thought out of the way when Ethan Czaplewski made it 4-2 with six minutes left that ultimately sealed the game.
The Firebirds have had a tough stretch of games, playing the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams back to back in their current 5-game losing streak. Devils Lake, facing a couple injuries in the last week, has four games left in the regular season.
“We just need our power play and be really focused on our power play right now,” Stokke said. “We lost a couple guys last week to injuries. We lost Tommy Reslock, he’s out the rest of the season. Cody Wren, hopefully he’s coming back this week.”