By PATRICK SLACK
Even strength, on the power play, down a man.
The Little Falls boys hockey team didn’t discriminate in a rematch of last season’s Section 6A championship against visiting Fergus Falls, Dec. 7, scoring in all three phases to produce a 5-1 win.
Senior Ben Newman recorded three of the Flyers’ goals to record a hat trick and in the process, deliver Little Falls head coach Tony Couture the 300th win of his career.
Seniors Taylor Kottschade and Matt Stumpf assisted senior Taylor Drager for the opening goal of the game just 1:34 in at even strength, giving the Flyers a 1-0 advantage it would hold into the second period.
Then, the Little Falls special teams would take over, with Newman striking first short-handed at 4:33 of the second, then on the power play less than three minutes later to push the gap to 3-0.
Fergus Falls got on the board with a power-play goal 4:13 into the third, but Little Falls put the game out of reach in the final five minutes on another power-play score by Newman and a short-handed goal by senior Austin Bjorge.
Stumpf finished with two assists, with Kottschade, seniors Nathan Adamietz and Luke Majerle and junior Mark Anez each picking up one.
Senior Michael Stumpf made 28 saves to earn the win in net and seal the landmark win for Couture.
“Being here 20 years, the longevity aspect comes into play,” Couture said. “Anytime you coach for a number of years you’re going to find some kind of milestone.”
“It was very nice to get the 300th win,” he said. “It tells you your program is going in the right direction. I never had any goal of getting a certain number of wins. The 300th win was no different than the 119th win. It was just something that happened. It’s a number. It was fun to get it against a good Fergus Falls team.”
Couture, now with a career record of 301-208-8 in his 20th year as head coach, was quick to deflect credit to the players and support system the program has developed through the years.
“A lot of other people have been a part of the 300 wins,” he said. “Obviously the players and the other coaches, all of the time and effort they’ve put in, not only myself. Obviously, within the last 10 years we’ve had some very good teams and we play a lot more games now than when I first started. Making it through the playoffs and going to state, there’s the chance to get more wins.”
The wins didn’t come as rapidly for Couture when he started out in 1993, though, as the Flyers took six seasons to post a winning record.
Then, the victories began to come in bunches.
“There were definitely some thin years at the beginning,” Couture said. “The first year we made it over .500 was the best year that ever happened.”
“Starting in 2001 we kind of took off,” he said. “It’s been a program that’s definitely been on the rise. Everything kind of goes full circle. You never think about your wins and losses while coaching. I have 300 wins, but I also have 200 losses. We aren’t celebrating that.”
The Flyers haven’t had to worry much about the losses lately, though, as Little Falls has had winning records in seven of the past eight seasons.
With 300 wins under his belt, Couture still doesn’t have any personal number in mind moving forward. Not that he has any thoughts of slowing down.
“We just want to get back to the section championship game and have a chance to get back to the state tournament. That’s the ultimate goal, playing well and playing our best hockey at end of season.”
“I think it’ll be time to retire when I don’t like going to the rink anymore,” he said. “Hopefully that won’t come soon. I enjoy working with the kids, and our staff does a good job with our players so they enjoy coming to the rink. You have to make it fun for the kids. When it’s no longer fun, that’s probably the time to hang it up.”
“I’ve had a lot of great memories and a lot of good friendships through the years, with the players and the parents, the arena staff, our coaching staff, opposing coaches, the referees,” he said. “You build a lot of relationships. It’s been a big part of my life. Youth hockey as well, trying to get out and watch and coach youth hockey. It has been a big part of who I am.”
Little Falls hosts Alexandria, Tuesday.
Little Falls 5, Fergus Falls 1
Fergus Falls 0 0 1 – 1
Little Falls 1 2 2 – 5
LF: Taylor Drager (Taylor Kottschade, Matt Stumpf), 1:34.
LF: Ben Newman, 4:33 (sh).
LF: Newman (Stumpf, Nathan Adamietz), 6:59 (pp).
FF: Rausch, 4:13 (pp).
LF: Newman (Luke Majerle), 12:14 (pp).
LF: Austin Bjorge (Mark Anez), 14:56 (sh).
Saves: FF: 24; LF-Michael Stumpf: 28.