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Packers succeed in first season alone

West Fargo's Cassie Beckerleg spent four successful years playing for the Fargo North-West Fargo girls hockey cooperative. So Beckerleg admits to some unease when she found out the Packers were going to field their own team for the first time thi...

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West Fargo's Cassie Beckerleg spent four successful years playing for the Fargo North-West Fargo girls hockey cooperative. So Beckerleg admits to some unease when she found out the Packers were going to field their own team for the first time this season.

She would be leaving a powerful program that won two North Dakota state titles during her time there to one that was starting from scratch.

"I wasn't happy about it right away. I didn't want to get a new team my senior year," said Beckerleg, a defenseman who was the only West Fargo athlete to play with North last year. "But when I found out that it was a lot of girls that I knew, friends of mine, then it was a lot better. Things have turned out great."

Winning has a tendency to put that shine on things. The Packers are 18-3-0 this year and enter their first state tournament as the second seed behind North. West Fargo plays seventh-seeded Hazen-Beulah

(10-10-1) in the first round today at Purpur Arena in Grand Forks.

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West Fargo's only losses have come to North (twice by 2-0 scores) and Fargo South.

"I knew we would be competitive, but to do as well as we've done is a little surprising," West Fargo coach Pat Johnson said.

Johnson's optimism came from coaching a West Fargo 19-under youth team that included many girls who would skate for the Packers varsity.

"We won that league last year with mostly eighth- and ninth-graders, and we had played some JV teams from Minnesota, so I saw that we could compete," Johnson said.

The Packers roster is dominated by young players. The team is made up of nine freshmen, six sophomores and four seniors. West Fargo's all-freshman top line of Kacie Johnson (the coach's daughter), Kaylee Lothspeich and Katlyn Springer has accounted for 42 goals and 83 points.

Goaltenders Amanda Olson, the starter, and Alison Sund have combined for a 1.20 goals-against average and a 92.4 saves percentage.

"We might not be the most skilled team, there are more talented teams out there, but we do simple things well and we will outwork other teams," said Pat Johnson, who's used the same philosophy to build a successful softball program at West Fargo. "That will go a long ways."

State tournament pairings

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Boys

Today

At Ralph Engelstad Arena

Fargo North vs. Bismarck, 11:30 a.m.

Grafton-Park River vs. Mandan, 30 minutes after conclusion of Game 1

Grand Forks Red River vs. Bismarck Century, 6:30 p.m.

Williston vs. Fargo South, 30 minutes after conclusion of Game 3

Girls

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Today

At Purpur Arena

Fargo North vs. Williston, 12:30 p.m.

Fargo South vs. Bismarck, 30 minutes after conclusion of Game 1

West Fargo vs. Hazen-Beulah, 5:30 p.m.

Grand Forks vs. Minot, 30 minutes after conclusion of Game 3

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike McFeely at (701) 241-5580

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