PREVIEW: Firebirds girls hockey expectations high after top four finish in state
Last season, the Firebirds had the best finish in program history. Devils Lake made its first appearance in the state tournament and won its first state tournament game, defeating Grand Forks in four overtimes. The Firebirds named junior goaltender Moly Black to the all-tournament.
It was a season that was memorable and fun for the Firebirds. However, this season brings forth new challenges on and off the ice. In addition to working around the COVID-19 pandemic, Devils Lake girls hockey is looking to fill the holes of captains lost to seniority.
"We've lost all of our captains coming into this year from last year," Firebirds head coach Rob McIvor said. "This is going to be a bit different overall, with COVID and without. The schedule is set, but it might have to be moved around a bit."
The Firebirds locked down on the ice, specifically on offense as they had four players in the top 15 in scoring in the state: Elle Black, Ashlyn Abrahamson, and Kaylie Klemetsrud. Elle led the charge, finishing in 10th in the state in scoring with nine goals and 22 assists.
Outside of scoring, the Firebirds leaned heavily on the performance of Moly Black, who will be returning for the 2020-21 season. She held a save percentage of 93.8 throughout the season, averaging 1.76 goals in 28 games for Devils Lake. At the state tournament, she would make a collective 115 saves over three days.
"We know we're solid there," McIvor said. "We can count on her to make really big saves at really big times and keep us in the game. We're probably going to see more shots this year than she did last year, but she's up to the task."
Holding on to players like Molly is key to the team's success in holding onto the same success they had last season. While the Firebirds will be without Elle and Klemetsrud, they will be returning top scorer in freshman Abrahamson. Last season, she 14 goals and 16 assists, for the 11th best scoring margin in the state. McIvor said they looking to up Abrahamson's scoring numbers this season.
McIvor said he'll be looking towards senior and veteran players to pull their weight on the ice while some of the younger players come forward as well. Other Firebird seniors include forward Hannah Houle and defenseman Madisyn White.
"The seniors we have this year are going to lead us in terms of point production and playing time," McIvor said. "We're going to try and get the younger girls up to par in terms of skill and speed in games. We've got a bit of a younger base this year and because of Corona, we're going to have to hope it doesn't affect us too often."
Expectations are still high for the Firebirds despite the loss of players and the climate they are playing in. The goal of making the state tournament again is a very real one for Devils Lake, but they know that the work will need to be put in into getting there once again
"I have high hopes of making state again," McIvor said. "The number of games you have to win to make State is very doable for this group. Going forward I hope we're not affected by the pandemic too much, but these girls will fight through whatever we need to to get the job done."
Devils Lake girls hockey schedule
The schedule posted below are games starting Dec. 15. It is unknown if games from Nov. 14 to Dec. 14 will be rescheduled.
Dec. 15 at Fargo Davis
Dec. 17 vs. Jamestown
Dec. 19 vs. Fargo North-South
Dec. 22 at Grand Forks
Dec. 29 at Mandan
Jan. 4 at Minot
Jan. 8 vs. Bismarck
Jan. 14 vs. West Fargo
Jan. 16 vs. Valley City
Jan. 23 at Williston
Jan. 29 vs, Mandan
Jan. 30 vs. Dickinson
Feb. 5 at Fargo North-South
Feb. 12 at Bismarck
Feb. 16 at Jamestown
Feb. 18 vs. Grand Forks
Feb. 25-27 State Tournament