March 1, 2023 at 5:57 p.m.
Prairie Centre’s season ends with section showdown
A lot of things could have derailed the Prairie Centre North Stars’ boys hockey season.
From a 13-game losing streak that saw the North Stars struggle to find bounces in close games to inconsistencies in physicality and scoring, there were opportunities for negative emotions to take over.
However, Prairie Centre never did, and even though its season came to an end with a 9-1 loss to the Fergus Falls Otters in the first round of the Section 6A Boys Hockey Tournament Feb. 24 at Fergus Falls Ice Arena in Fergus Falls, the team does not have many regrets.
“I always say in playoffs, you have to play your best game of the year,” said Chad Wehrman, head coach. “It doesn’t matter if it’s first round, second round or third round. If you play your best game and the other team beats you, you tip your cap and feel good about your effort, and I think our guys can do that.”
Fergus Falls, a seven-time state entrant with 13 wins against a vaunted Central Lakes Conference schedule, quickly took control of the pace and flow of the game, scoring two goals in the first six minutes. Prairie Centre, despite being placed on the back foot, had its opportunities but could not find early goals against Fergus Falls goaltender Ben Swanson.
“I didn’t feel like they were pinning us in,” Wehrman said. “It didn’t feel like a 9-1 game. We had some chances and didn’t capitalize and they were capitalizing on their chances.”
The Otters, having denied Prairie Centre’s initial close-range opportunities, made sure to close that window fast. It was all Fergus Falls in the second period, with the hosts outshooting the North Stars 19-5, including three more goals.
Prairie Centre did break through before game’s end, and in appropriate fashion. Senior Derick Sorenson slid a beautiful stretch pass over to fellow upperclassman Eli Fletcher for a highlight-reel goal in the final game of their careers.
“This was a pure breakaway and he went in against one of the best goalies in the area and he got him to bite early and just waited him out,” Wehrman said. “When you’ve got 150-some goals, it does seem fitting to get one in your last game.”
Even though the North Stars bow out of the section playoffs after a tough road showing, there was a lot to like from the 2022-23 winter season, including a cohesive coaching staff that included Wehrman, Hunter Fletcher, Noah Fletcher and volunteer Jake Zollman, a strong senior leadership group and several head-turning younger talents.
“I think there’s a lot of positives,” Wehrman said. “Hopefully, they’ll take the next step and grow a bit.”
PC 0 0 1 1
FF 3 3 3 9
Third period: 10. Fletcher (Sorenson) 16:25. Goalie: Carter Holman 37-46.