DL Bantam Hockey - Lakers glide through home tourney to capture gold
When the Detroit Lakes Bantam A hockey team hoisted the championship trophy at their home tournament Sunday, it was the culmination not only of their blue collar approach and their all for one attitude, but also of missed opportunities over the past two seasons.
Though the Bantams have put together an unprecedented string of championship appearances in the past two years (seven championship games and only one win), they were finally able to celebrate a first-place finish in front of their home crowd at the Kent Freeman Sports Arena.
The Detroit Lakes Bantam A Tournament consisted of 16 teams coming from a combination of Minnesota, Canada, North Dakota, and South Dakota, four of which are ranked in the top 20 in the state of Minnesota.
Detroit Lakes opened the tournament Friday, against Willmar. After a slow start and a frustrating first two periods of play, DL goaltender Carson Sonstegard stopped a two-on-one chance from Willmar with just seconds to play in the second period to maintain a one-goal lead at intermission.
With the one goal lead heading into the third, DL took over the final frame.
Tyler Berby and Sam Boomgarden each had two goals to help DL finish with an 8-4 victory, advancing them to the second round.
DL's next opponent was Litchfield, and it was over quickly.
DL came out clicking on all cylinders, with Jacob Anderson, Andrew Dahl, Josh Bollig, Matthew Bergren, Jon Richards and Jack Deconcini combining for eight goals, while Eli Disse and Carson Tunheim each had three assists in an 8-0 thumping.
In the semifinals, DL clashed with a familiar opponent in Fort Frances, Ontario.
The two teams played each other in early December at the Bemidji Tournament and they seemed very equal at that time.
DL came out on top in a 7-6 barn burner.
This time around it was different, as DL was on fire the whole game, outplaying Fort Frances from the drop of the puck until the final horn.
Jon Richards exploded for four goals and Josh Bollig had a pair of goals, while DL netminder Austin Fritz recorded his second shutout in a row as DL blanked Fort Frances 6-0 to punch their ticket for the championship game.
The championship game was as good as advertised, as Detroit Lakes was pitted against Hopkins.
The game featured two big, physical teams that dominated their route to the finals.
It was Detroit Lakes which struck first, when Richards settled down a bouncing puck off of a face off and sniped it through the five hole.
The goal sparked DL as they applied the pressure, and just minutes later, Boomgarden buried a rebound off a shot from Dahl, giving DL a 2-0 lead after one period.
The second period belonged to Hopkins, as they put up multiple shots.
Fritz was up to the task, but Hopkins capitalized on a DL turnover, cutting the lead in half for a 2-1 score heading into the third period.
The last 15 minutes of the game were nail biting, as it was back and forth, chance after chance, both teams stood strong.
When Hopkins pulled their goalie for the final minute, DL worked their hardest and withstood a flurry of opportunities, blocking shots and clearing pucks.
When the final horn sounded, the Kent Freeman Arena erupted, as their hometown Bantam A's were celebrating a 2-1 victory and much-deserved championship win.
The Bantams will now play in their District Tournament, Feb. 15-17 in Moorhead.