Michael Sperl's spectacular season has not been a one-man show.
The senior goalie for Class 1A's second-ranked Little Falls Flyers was quick to praise his four senior defensemen. Their work has helped the Flyers to an 18-0 record in their quest for a fourth-straight state tournament appearance.
"They've been huge," said Sperl. "In years before we had some solid defenders, but they've always been building. This year we have four seniors and they're solid. They know my style and I know their style. We key off each other."
Still, Sperl's been stellar. The three-year varsity starter is enjoying his best statistical season and last week only added to that.
The Flyers opened the week with a 7-2 victory over the Sartell Sabres Jan. 27 as Sperl collected 19 saves. He tallied 17 saves in a 8-0 blowout of Fergus Falls Jan. 29. One night later Sperl blanked Sauk Rapids for another 8-0 win and had 18 saves. Tuesday, he had 14 saves in the Flyers' 9-1 win over Wadena-Deer Creek.
Sperl's two shutouts give him seven this season, which leads the Section 6-1A standings. He is second in minutes played with 899.2 and second with a 93.3 save percentage. He's blocked 363 out of 389 shots. He leads the section with a 1.5 goals-against average.
"One thing that he has really improved on is his concentration and the way he approaches a game," said Flyers head coach Tony Couture. "He's very calm and doesn't get too worked up. When he does let in a goal he doesn't get rattled or shaken."
Sperl has played every minute and Couture said he will continue to play every minute for the Flyers. One reason is Sperl's ability to control rebounds. Couture said the second and third opportunities teams once had against Sperl aren't there this year.
School: Little Falls
Key stat: Two shutout victories over Fergus Falls and Sauk Rapids
"He's directing pucks into the corners and over the glass," said Couture, a former goalie. "An average goalie lets the puck sit there. If it's on the ice he's directing it and that's hard to control off your stick or pads."
As a junior Sperl played all but 345.5 minutes of the Flyers' 27-4 state consolation championship season. He saved 501 of the 558 shots he faced for an 89.8 save percentage and a 2.3 goals-against average. He did collect three shutouts, including a 5-0 victory over Blake in the state consolation semifinals.
Sperl had four shutouts his sophomore season, helping the Flyers to a 25-5 record and their second straight 1A state tournament appearance. He logged 1,444.9 minutes and saved 486 of the 555 shots he faced. He finished with an 87.6 save percentage and 2.4 goals-against average.
"I guess I'm just trying to keep the team in games," said Sperl, who will attend Bethel University to study biology and play hockey. "If I get a shutout that's great.
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Jake Jensen, Lake Region, had 29 points and 17 rebounds against Cloverdale Christian.
Dan Kornbaum, Little Falls, scored 35 points against Fergus Falls and 24 against St. Cloud Apollo.
Jordan Ackerman, Pine River-Backus, scored 72 points in four games.
Ronnie Kornbaum, Little Falls, scored 24 points against St. Cloud Apollo.
Mark Hoge, Crosby-Ironton, had 28 points and 11 rebounds against Warroad and 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists against Roseau.
Jordan Hunstad, Pillager, scored 29 points against Menahga.
Jordan Riewer, Staples-Motley, scored 29 points against Rocori.
Hockey: Ben Hanowski, Little Falls, finished the week with eight goals and five assists in three victories.
Joey Osborn, Wadena-Deer Creek, scored four goals against Detroit Lakes.
Wrestling: Cody Bue, Little Falls, finished the week 7-0.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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