DEVILS LAKE – The Devils Lake Firebirds were looking to scoop up a rebound performance against the Fargo North Spartans Tuesday evening, and for good reason. After the Spartans scored six goals in what amounted to a 6-3 win against their East Region rival on Dec. 10, the Firebirds had a bone to pick.
While Devils Lake’s defense failed to yield many scoring chances, the Spartans pounded their way just enough on the man advantage to come away with a 4-0 shutout win at Burdick Arena on Jan. 25.
Devils Lake’s (3-13, 0-11) losing streak extends to 12 games with the loss, dating back to Dec. 10 when they faced off against the Spartans at Fargo North High School. The Firebirds have been shut out in four games over the stretch, including in each of their last two matchups (the Firebirds fell to Jamestown, 2-0, on Jan. 21).
Three of Fargo North’s four goals came on the man advantage. Fargo North forward Brendan Richards tallied two of the three power-play goals, while fellow forward Nathaniel Fritel nailed in the other. Richards and Fritel each tallied two goals apiece in the contest.
Of course, Devils Lake’s main culprit came in the form of the penalty box. Within the first two periods, Devils Lake compiled 10 penalty infraction minutes (PIM). The Firebirds compiled 18 PIM during the contest (nine penalties).
Although the Firebirds kept the Spartans at bay through the first 14 minutes of the first period, Richards captured his first of two power-play goals after Kaden Brandvold went to the box for a hooking call.
While the Firebirds held the Spartans to less than six goals in the contest, the latter’s sheer number of opportunities on the man advantage proved to be the former’s downfall.
“Well, at times, I thought the PK unit played really well, but when you give that many opportunities, they are going to figure it out eventually,” Devils Lake head coach Tate Aronson said after the game. “What killed us was when we started chasing and ran ourselves out of position. Going forward, we have to stress discipline, both in not taking penalties and in our positioning.”
The Firebirds remained in the hunt via Zach White’s presence at the front of the net. Max Langton, in addition to Brendan Connor, maintained a continuous defensive line between the circles. However, through their capitalization on the power-play, the Spartans pulled through. A power-play goal at the 12:41 mark in Richards’ favor all but sealed the 4-0 Spartan win.
As the Firebirds continue their season schedule, it will be necessary for the team to maintain balance at the front of the net and play a clean game to the benefit of the defense.
“Going into the game, we knew that we had to protect the front of the net, stay out of the box and take advantage of our opportunities,” Aronson said. “I thought, at times, we protected the front of the net, but we didn’t follow through with the other two. North [Fargo] took advantage of that tonight.”
White saved 46 of Fargo North’s 50 shots on goal (SOG). White’s most recent win came on Dec. 4 (45 saves against Mandan).
Contact John Crane via email (email@example.com) or Twitter @johncranesports)
This article originally appeared on Devils Lake Journal: Devils Lake Boys Hockey blanked in 4-0 loss to Fargo North Spartans