MINNESOTA STATE CLASS A HOCKEY TOURNAMENT: Thief River Falls in shutdown mode
Tim Bergland carved out a five-year career in the National Hockey League as a forward who understood the importance of defense. "I wasn't going to be a top-end goal scorer when I got there," Bergland said. "My role was being physical and playing ...
Tim Bergland carved out a five-year career in the National Hockey League as a forward who understood the importance of defense.
"I wasn't going to be a top-end goal scorer when I got there," Bergland said. "My role was being physical and playing strong defense."
That made the start of this season very un-Bergland-like for the Thief River Falls boys high school hockey team he now coaches. In the Prowlers' first four games, they gave up 17 goals.
But the Prowlers did an about-face, and defense is now the strength as Thief River Falls makes its second consecutive appearance in the Minnesota Class A state tournament. The Prowlers, 22-4-2 and seeded fourth, meet New Ulm (17-11-0) at 8 tonight in the state quarterfinals at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.
Since those first four games, Thief River Falls has given up 34 goals in 24 games. The Prowlers have given up more than two goals only three times in those 24 games. And they've become stingier of late -- in its last five games, TRF has three shutouts and allowed one goal in each of the other two games.
"We were a run-and-gun team at the start of the season," Bergland said. "You can win a lot of games playing that way. But you can lose a lot of games playing that way, too. I didn't mind the goals we were scoring. But I didn't like seeing the goals we were giving up. It's crucial to limit (opponents) chances.
"We didn't change anything. We just got a little more focused and started to compete better. The guys started to get acclimated. They figured out what we wanted to be doing."
The defensive unit had some solid building blocks. Goalie Jon Narverud and defensemen Chris Forney and Andrew Lansing were rotation regulars on last season's team that won the Section 8A title and went on to finish third at the state tournament. Lansing, a senior, is in his fourth season as a regular; Forney, a junior, is a third-year regular.
They've been joined in the regular defensive rotation by Adam Pancoast, Grady Pederson and Riley Olson.
"Andrew and Chris have played a lot of minutes," Bergland said. "There aren't many times when at least one of them isn't on the ice. Andrew is more of a physical, banger type. Chris is big, too; he brings a bit more offense. But they're both shutdown types. And it was nice having Jon back; he can be a standout in goal.
"And all these kids felt they had something to prove after we graduated a lot of good seniors from last year's team."
The Prowlers' offense is led by the line of Riley Soderstrom (27 goals, 25 assists--52 points), Evan Ose (15-23--38) and Austin Odberg (16-18--34). The trio has accounted for more than half of the 110 goals the Prowlers have scored this season.
The Prowlers' offense has been strong from the start, scoring 19 goals in the first four games of the season. The defense took a little longer. But it is on a roll after allowing just one goal in three Section 8A tournament games.
"I wouldn't have guessed that happening (at the start of the season)," Bergland said. "It's a nice testament to our defense. They've really buckled down. They've had a good year, and really proven themselves at playoff time."
DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to email@example.com .