Thursday, March 4, 2010

Area notebook: History says 8A title game will be defensive battle / Courtesy Of Grand Forks Herald

Nobody should be surprised if the Section 8A boys hockey championship game comes down to one goal.

By: Greg DeVillers, Grand Forks Herald

Nobody should be surprised if the Section 8A boys hockey championship game comes down to one goal.

History says that’s likely.

With a state tournament berth on the line, rivals Warroad and Thief River Falls meet for the Section 8A title at 7 tonight in the East Grand Forks Civic Center. Warroad is three-time defending champion and has won the 8A title six of the past seven years; Thief River Falls won the 8A championship in 2006.

The teams have met twice this season, each winning once by a 2-1 score. “You look for those types of low-scoring games in section finals,” Prowlers coach Tim Bergland said. “And if history says anything, you expect that kind of game again.”

Close goes beyond this season.

In the 8A playoffs in the past four seasons:
- Thief River Falls beat Warroad 3-2 in four overtimes in the 2006 section final;
- In the 2007 title game, it was Warroad 2, Thief River Falls 1;
- In 2008, Warroad needed two overtimes to beat the Prowlers 2-1 in the 8A semifinals;
- Last year, Warroad got a late goal by Brock Nelson to beat the Prowlers 3-2 in the 8A title game.

“Our teams are pretty similar,” Warroad coach Albert Hasbargen said. “They have a great defense, with the top goaltender in the state. And we take pride in playing great defensive hockey. It will be interesting to see if things open up or if it’s a battle in the defensive zones again.”

There’s also the potential of the 8A final coming down to two future Sioux teammates. Nelson paces the Warriors with 84 points (46 goals, 38 assists). On the last line of defense for the Prowlers is Zane Gothberg (1.81 goals-against average, .921 save percentage), this year’s Minnesota senior goalie of the year. Both are seniors who have committed to play at UND.

“I wouldn’t think you’d see that too often, two players out of UND’s backyard going against each other,” Bergland said. “I’m sure they know each other. It will be something they’ll probably talk about in the future.”

Nelson and Brett Hebel (25 goals, 41 assists) give Warroad a strong 1-2 punch, followed by Carson Gray (7-33) and Nick Stoskopf (17-21).

Thief River Falls relies more on balance in an offense led by Mathew Lindquist (15-19), Micah Ranum (24-8) and Ryan Crosson (8-20).

“You have to assume it will be another low-scoring game,” Hasbargen said. “It might take a lucky bounce to win it.”

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