On high school game nights, the Dispatch sports page is filled with area game briefs, from Wadena to Aitkin, Little Falls to Pine River-Backus.
A few select athletes in these stories are destined for greatness and college scholarships. Many play for the pride of their school and the camaraderie that only team sports can bring. And all go out to give it their best.
Within area girls' hockey stories, usually buried in the box score, is the story of Little Falls Flyers goalie Nhi Dinh.
Dinh (pronounced "knee den") averaged 34.85 saves per game this season.
Her play, along with coach Brad Hubred's strategy, which has doubled the team's offensive point total from last season, helped the Flyers win a record three games this year, surpassing the one-win, one-tie mark of the 2003-04 season.
The Little Falls Flyers' Nhi Dinh has been a major force between the pipes. Brainerd Dispatch/Trevor Williams» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"Although she is small in stature (5-feet-3), she has a big heart," said Hubred. "It shows on the ice."
Dinh's greatest achievement was Nov. 28, 2005, versus River Lakes at Rocori. While the Flyers lost 11-4, she stopped 82 shots. While not yet verified by the Minnesota State High School League, it would be the second-most shots stopped in a regulation girls' hockey game in state history.
"I'm used to taking a lot of shots," Dinh said. "I don't really care how many shots come toward the net. At the end of game sometimes it could be 50. I don't even really notice.
"The Rocori game was just crazy. I was getting pucks shot at me from here and from there.
"I was saving most of them so I was very proud of myself. After the game my coach came up to me and said, 'Do you know how many shots you saved?' And I said, 'No.' And he said, 'You have 80 or so.' And I was like 'Are you serious?' My jaw just dropped."
While Dinh enjoys being a goalie and the attention her position sometimes gets with the amount of saves, she is more concerned about the overall performance of the team.
In the 2005-2006 season the Flyers didn't win a game, losing 25 in a row. This season Little Falls started off by losing five in a row before an overtime win against Princeton.
Nhi Dinh is originally from Vietnam
"I hate going into overtime," Dinh said. "My heart was pumping. When we scored the goal to win, it was a relief. I was so happy. The reason I go out and play is for my teammates and coaches."
Dinh is originally from Vietnam, moving to Little Falls when she was five. Her parents came to America for a better opportunity for Dinh and her sister. Her parents like the fact that both their daughters are involved in athletics.
Dinh feels accepted by everyone else in the community and finds that the best thing about Little Falls is "the people." Dinh does miss her extended family in Vietnam and Vietnamese food though.
It was mainly by chance that Dinh got involved in hockey. Current teammates Jaci Laporte and Kaitlyn Gerads urged Dinh to get involved during the sixth grade.
"They said I should play hockey and I was like, 'Oh, I don't know,'" Dinh said. "And then I played it and it was OK. Then the next day they said, 'You should play goalie.'"
A sophomore, Dinh hopes to keep improving. She admires the University of Minnesota-Duluth women's hockey program and would like to play there. Her long-term plans include going to graduate school and becoming a doctor.
Looking forward to next season, hope springs eternal for Dinh.
"We're like a roller coaster up and down," she said. "Some games this season we were awesome, some games we're like, 'Oh my God.' Hopefully, next year we'll win more of our games. We'll have most of our team back and we're improving."
When asked if the team's lack of wins ever get to her, Dinh smiled, "I enjoy playing hockey. I have fun out there."
TREVOR WILLIAMS, sports copy editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-
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