FARGO — Fargo South-Shanley Bruins coach Dean French said that every time he thinks the opposition has a scoring chance, it turns out they don’t. Senior goaltender Zach Sandy is always in the right position.
Fargo Davies put 37 shots on net and Sandy stopped all 37. Tanner Kirkeby led the attack on offense with a pair of goals in the Bruins' 2-0 victory over the Eagles in Eastern Dakota Conference boys hockey on Tuesday at Farmers Union Insurance Center.
“He’s super talented, but he’s also a gamer — he fights.” French said about Sandy. “He does not want to be beaten on shots or in the game. He concentrates and stays in the mix for 51 minutes and he never ever lets up.”
The Bruins have now beaten the rival Eagles four times in a row after sweeping three games against them last year. The last time they met was a triple-overtime thriller in the state semifinal game that sent the Bruins into the championship.
“They’re obviously our rival. We beat them every single game last year, so to come out and beat them again is awesome,” Sandy said. “We’re such a young team and to see these guys fight and battle — it seems like we’ve got six injuries right now. It’s like we’re losing a guy almost every game. The way these guys fought against our rival Davies is cool to see.”
The shutout didn’t come easy for Sandy. He had to earn it down the stretch. The Eagles had a six-to-four skater disadvantage for the final 1 minute, 42 seconds. Kirkeby went to the box for tripping and the Eagles pulled their goalie. They put an onslaught of shots on goal, but the senior keeper battled through and kept the clean sheet.
“That’s when I really need to dig deep and give it all I’ve got,” said Sandy, who entered the game leading the state with a 96% save percentage. “Those last two minutes they’ve got six on four and I told the guys, ‘Just be warriors.’ We don’t have a game until Saturday now.”
Kirkeby scored both of his two goals in the final three minutes of the second period.
The breakthrough goal came with an assist from Sam Osvak with 2:55 to go. Osvak picked up the puck on the left wing after a Davies player tried to clear it up the boards. The lefty forward deked a defender in the left circle, pivoted at the goal line and passed back to Kirkeby in the circle. Kirkeby laced a rocket into the net to make it 1-0.
Then Kirkeby doubled up with a power-play goal in the waning seconds of the second period. The Bruins passed around the perimeter from the right point to the left point to Jake Skarperud in the left circle and finally to Kirkeby at the goal line. Kirkeby tried to pass to a teammate in the slot, but a defender deflected the puck back in his direction. He picked up the deflection and buried it in the net.
The power play was the first of the game for either team up to that point.
“Tanner Kirkeby had a great game,” Sandy said. “He scored both of those goals. We look a lot to him and the seniors this year. In these types of games, you figure it’s going to be tough to score. So once you go ahead 2, it’s really tough to come back. Especially the way we played defense and the way our guys were locked in, it was important for Tanner to score those goals.”
Kirkeby now has a team-high eight goals to go along with seven assists. Coming into the game he was tied for the team lead with John Lang at six goals.
“He’s bringing some senior leadership, talent and just experience in these types of games,” French said. “He’s been in them for three years now. He knows how to finish shifts, he knows how to finish periods and he got a couple late there where he kept going all the way to the buzzer. That’s what we need out of our seniors.”
FIRST: No scoring.
SECOND: 1, FS, Kirkeby (Ovsak, Verwest) 14:05. 2, FS, Kirkeby (Skarperud) 16:50 pp.
THIRD: No scoring.
SAVES: FS, Sandy 37; FD, Wiemken 26.