Turbulent take off to the season

Majettes hockey notebook: High highs and low lows

Alex Eisen/MDN Majettes sophomore O’Malley Eslinger (11) gets the puck caught between her skates in a game against Fargo Davies on Dec. 9 at Maysa Arena.

Seven games into the 2017-18 season and the Minot High School girls hockey team is hovering near the top of the state standings with a 5-2-0 overall record.

The wins have been convincing, but the losses have been just as depressing. The Majettes have outscored their opponents 32-6 when they have skated away victorious. Yet, they have been shut out in both of their defeats — Bismarck (2-0) on Dec. 5 and Fargo Davies (5-0) on Dec. 9.

“I have learned that we are a team that needs to strike first,” MHS coach Weylin Wahlstrom said.

Minot has scored first in every game they have won this season.

When they are clicking, the Majettes are extremely tough to slow down. Their average of 4.6 goals per game is third-best in the state behind Fargo North/South (7.3) and Bismarck (4.9).

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot High sophomore Dessa Flom (2) skates up the boards in a game played earlier this season at Maysa Arena.

Sophomore forward Dessa Flom has the second-most goals in the state with 12 and the fifth-most points with 15. Fellow sophomore forward Kaya Shaw isn’t far behind with 12 points (five goals and seven assists).

Confidence is key

Getting the first goal has become so critical because it seemingly triggers the belief that they can do it again and again.

“We play more confident hockey when we get that first goal,” Wahlstrom said. “Our lowest scoring game this year when we do score is four goals. So, once we put the puck in the net, we are pretty dangerous.”

Certain players tend to catch fire as well. In all of Minot’s five wins, there was been at least one skater who had a multi-goal game. Junior forward Olivia Weisberg has done it twice with two goals against Williston and Jamestown. Not to be outdone, Flom has done it four times — four goals against Grand Forks, a hat-trick against Mandan and two goals against Devils Lake and Williston.

It’s when the goals aren’t coming when problems start to arise.

“I think there is some frustration when we don’t score,” Wahlstrom said. “There seems to be this sense of urgency when we aren’t not capitalizing on our opportunities… It’s a confidence thing, and they need to understand that not every puck is going to go into the net.”

Something they learned the hard way when they outshot Fargo Davies, 41-27, but were shutout 5-0.

Freshmen between

the pipes

Coming into the season, Wahlstrom didn’t exactly know what to expect out of his two new freshmen goaltenders. But, he has been pleasantly surprised at what he has seen out of both Amber Borkhuis and Madison Knudson.

“That’s a scary thing coming in as a freshman and never facing a high school shot before,” Wahlstrom said. “Both of them have played tremendous for us and give us an opportunity to win hockey games… I have talked to them and said, ‘You don’t have to win the game for us. You just have to give us a chance.’ And that’s exactly what they have done.”

Borkhuis has gotten most of the action and has started every game so far. She has a respectable 2.12 goals against average with a 89.8 save percentage.

Knudson has stepped in for Borkhuis three times in games against Grand Forks, Jamestown and Williston when the contest was already handily in Minot’s favor. She has stopped 17 out of 18 shots faced.

“I’m very excited with what they have accomplished this year and I’m also so excited for the future because I see Maddy improving every single day and those two pushing each other,” Wahlstrom said. “One of the best problems to have is figuring out which goalie to start. That’s where we want to be.”

Holiday trip to

Warroad Gardens

With Christmas presents unwrapped, the Majettes head off to the Warroad Gardens in Minnesota for a three-day tournament being held today through Thursday.

“You want to spend the holiday season with your family and we are all going to spend Christmas and Christmas Eve with our families,” Wahlstrom said. “Then, right after that, we get to travel with our extended family, which is our hockey club.”

Minot will play Dodge County (Minnesota) this evening, hosts Warroad (Minnesota) on Wednesday and Fort Frances (Ontario, Canada) on Thursday.

Wahlstrom admittedly said he hasn’t seen any of these teams play this season, but does expect the competition level to be high like it is every year at this event.

It will pose a unique challenge for the Majettes.

“I’m hoping, because of the fact that there are no points on the line, it gives the girls an opportunity to play some really talented hockey teams, but not have that distraction in the back of their minds that they have to win,” Wahlstrom said. “They can just go out there and play hockey. When we score and played relaxed, we play our best hockey.”

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.