ittle Falls left northern Minnesota stumpfed.
For the first time in the three-year
history of the Flyers’ hockey team’s northern tour, the Flyers swept Hibbing, Virginia and International Falls to open the season 3-0.
One key reason — senior goalie Michael Stumpf.
The four-year starter stonewalled the season’s first three opponents to the tune of 98 saves out of 100 shots. Those numbers helped Little Falls open with a 3-0 victory over Hibbing Nov. 23, a 6-1 blowout of Virginia Nov. 30 and a 5-1 win over International Falls Dec. 1.
“One thing new this year for Michael was he started with the Flying Aces (junior hockey team in Little Falls),” said Flyers head coach Tony Couture. “He wasn’t guaranteed anything, but he saw it as a chance to get better. Just that experience he got from practicing with the team was phenomenal. He started our season in midseason form. That was a huge benefit for him and for us.”
Little Falls started last season 1-4. The Flyers were 1-1-1 at the start of Stumpf’s sophomore season. Stumpf recognized his early season struggles and worked on them.
“I’m always pushing myself to get better,” he said. “I think I’m a great competitor. I like to put in that extra mile or that extra percent. The moment you get satisfied with where you’re at, you start to downgrade.”
Stumpf enters his fourth season in net for Class 1A’s 10th-ranked Flyers.
He helped Little Falls to the 1A consolation championship and a 21-10 record last season. His goal is to get his team back to state.
“It’s very important,” Stumpf said. “We went last year and we know what it takes to get there. It’s a lot of fun down there and it would be a great way to go out.”
As a sophomore, he finished with a 93.2-percent save percentage and a 1.6 goals-against average in 1,033 minutes. Those numbers helped the Flyers to a 20-4-2 season.
Stumpf finished with a 3.7 goals-against average and an 87.4 save percentage in 903 minutes played as a freshmen.
“You get to a point, where all of a sudden, you just know he’s there,” said Couture. “I’m nervous, as all coaches are, before games, but I never get worried about what type of effort we’re going to get in net. There is no guarantee game in and game out, but you know more times than not he’s going to be rock solid in that net. Having that type of person on your team, who is always going to come to play, is so beneficial.”
Couture said Stumpf’s awareness and vision are what make him a top-level goalie. Also, his ability to direct rebounds, depending on the game situation, is a benefit. But what Couture likes most of all his Stumpf’s competitiveness.
“He’s a great competitor and he is even in practice,” Couture said. “You’re getting shot at all the time and he has this feisty attitude. You like that fire he’s got. We were doing our little warm up drill in practice the other day and it’s just something we do every day to warm up for practice. And his goal during this drill was to not allow a goal.
“He’s always looking to get better. He’s doing things that make everyone else around him better.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Beau Howard, Pine River-Backus, reached 1,000 career points after scoring 32 against Cass Lake-Bena.
Andrew VanErp, Wadena-Deer Creek, scored 22 points against Sebeka.
Evan VanErp, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with 20 points against Sebeka.
Jordan Redmond, Pequot Lakes, scored 27 points against Deer River.
Dallas Ehrmantraut, Verndale, finished with 20 points and five assists against Ashby.
Hockey: Austin Bjorge, Little Falls, collected two goals and two assists against International Falls.
Wresting: Anthony Philipson and Drey Loge, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, won individual titles at the Wadena-Deer Creek Invite.
Dalton Baker, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale, won an individual title at the Wadena-Deer Creek Invite.
Conor Swanson, Little Falls, went 4-0 at the Monticello Duals.
Caleb Kreitter, Caleb Voss and Cole Grinsteinner, Crosby-Ironton, won individual titles at the Rush City Invite.