The Fergus Falls VFW Bantam A’s ventured north the day after Thanksgiving for some holiday weekend hockey in Warroad. The Otters started the four game tournament with District 15 foe, Northern Lakes. Kellen Stenstrom got the maroon and gold on the board first with a goal set-up by Joey Johnson and Griffin Babolian. The Lightning answered with a goal of their own and the first period ended 1-1. The second period was similar with Stenstrom scoring an unassisted goal and the Lightning responding for a second period score of 2-2. In the third, the Lightning scored first to take their only lead in the game. That lead only lasted about three minutes until Otter winger, Babolian snatched the puck and scored unassisted to tie the game. Regulation ended in a 3-3 tie and tournament rules called for a three-man shootout to decide the game. Stenstrom and Babolian each scored in the shootout, while the Lightning were only able to put one goal past Otter goalie Ryan Nelson. Strong goaltending kept the Otters in the game as Nelson stopped 46 of 49 shots.
On Saturday, the Otters’ first opponent was Devils Lake who was undefeated coming into the tournament. Fergus Falls opened the scoring less than a minute into the game with a quick snipe by Dakota Komestakes on a pass from Ethan McGuiness. Devils Lake responded, and a minute and a half later the Otters regained the lead when Brayden Nelson set up Jax Katzenmeyer for a nice goal. The first period ended with the maroon and gold on top 3-1. Devils Lake would then score three unanswered goals before Stenstrom beat his defender and put an unassisted goal over the Flames’ goalie. That would be the final goal of the game by the Otters, while Devils Lake would add two more for a final score of 6-3 in favor of the Flames. Despite having six power play opportunities and outshooting the Flames 43-35, the Otters were not able to manage any power play goals. Fergus Falls goalie Nelson made 29 saves in the game.
Game three of the tournament had the Otters face off against a team from north of the border, the Fort Frances Canadians. Once again, the maroon and gold lit the lamp first when Katzenmeyer slammed home a rebound shot from Joey Johnson. Fort Frances would score the next three goals to end the first period with a 3-1 lead. Griffin Babolian opened scoring in the second period on a pass from Joey Johnson to narrow the Canadian lead. Fort Frances added two more goals before Fergus Falls would get on the board again. The second period ended with the Otters adding two goals of their own, both by defensemen. Aiden Lindgren tallied an unassisted goal at the 8:15 mark, followed by a Bo Bring blast from the point. Bring was assisted by Shane Zierden for an Otter power play goal. The period ended 5-4 in favor of the Canadians. The third period belonged to Fort Frances as they would add four more goals to Fergus Falls’ one. The lone Otter goal of the third belonged to Joey Johnson who scored unassisted on a breakaway. The Otters were outshot 58-30 and goalie Ryan Nelson came up with 49 saves.
The final game saw the Otters battle the boys from “Hockeytown USA.” Both teams have short benches with Warroad carrying only a dozen and Fergus Falls just 13. The hometown boys struck early and often and the Otters trailed 4-1 after the first period. Katzenmeyer gave the Otters a little life going into the locker room, and a little hope going into the second period with his unassisted goal just before the break. The momentum wouldn’t last as Warroad added two goals in the second, before Brayden Nelson set up Stenstrom for an Otter goal to end the period. The final frame had Warroad with two more goals and the last Fergus Falls goal by Joey Johnson all alone. Nelson was busy in the net turning away 59 of 67 shots. The final score was 8-3 Warroad.
The Fergus Falls VFW Bantam A’s faced some tough competition and despite going 1-3 on the weekend, Warroad was a great host and always provides a fun hockey environment.