Fire continue WCC dominance with another championship


On Monday, boys hockey faced off against the Orono Spartans. Going into the game, tensions were high as the Spartans were 13-5-1 while the Fire were 16-3-1. In a emotion-filled competition, the Fire emerged victorious with a dominating 5-0 win to secure the Wright County Conference Championship. Their impressive win not only boosted morale but was also a huge stepping-stone in propelling the team toward an opportunity to excel in the post-season. This victory continues a trend of consistency, in which the Fire are 74-18-3 in the WCC and 5-time champions since the 2009-2010 season.

For the majority of the game, the Fire held their own and were able to control the tempo of a talented Orono squad. The Fire showed their brute force with 48 shots on goal compared to Orono’s 15.

Goals were scored by: #6 AJ Kittleson in the 1st, two goals by #11 Ben Almquist in the 2nd and one in the third, and one goal for #17 Cole Wilson in the 3rd. Assists were made by Garrett Pinoniemi (2), John Simon (1), AJ Kittleson (2), Trey Fechko (1), Dan Reddan (1), and Sawyer Schugel (1).

At the end of the night we asked senior captains Ben Almquist and Brady Ziemer about their championship performance: 

Overall, what are your opinions on tonight’s staggering performance?

“Pretty good. We were aggressive and played the way we needed to play in order to win these big games. It was a big win and we stepped up tonight.” – Ben Almquist

“It was a good game all around. The forwards were getting low and buzzing their defense, our offense was effective at controlling the pace and tempo of the game. Although our powerplay wasn’t too good at first, I thought towards the end of the game we were peppering the goalie with shots and that sealed our win.” – Brady Ziemer

How does it feel to record another hat-trick?

“It feels great. At the end of the day, it’s for the team. If the team wins and we are happy with our performance, I don’t care how many goals I have – we just gotta aim to get the win.” – Ben Almquist

This conference win is a huge boost towards the team’s hopes for post-season success and a potential appearance at State. What are the team’s hopes for the upcoming games? 

“We gotta keep going up from here – improving on both the positives and negatives of each game. If we do that, I think we are guaranteed success.” – Ben Almquist

“We are gonna win out and hopefully get to the tourney and see what happens there. Plain and simple – we gotta shoot for it.” – Brady Ziemer

How’s it feel to come off a big 5-0 win against a team that you tied with earlier this season?

“It was a good game. We knew that they were going to come out and compete with us for the WCC title. I think our ability to improve as a team over the course of the season shows how far we come and how the hard work pays off – in this case, it definitely did with the conference championship. I think we are all pleased with our performance tonight.” – Brady Ziemer


In addition to their WCC Championship, boys hockey hosted Prior Lake on Thursday (2/8). In a very competitive matchup against the Lakers, the Fire were able to secure a huge 7-2 win. This win proved to be another huge boost of momentum going into their next game.

The boys started off slow in the first period but were able to regain consistency going into the second and third periods. Offensively, the Fire were able to shoot 46 times on the Lakers’ net. Defensively, Goalie Conan Hayton had a phenomenal performance with 28 saves out of the 30 shots taken on him – earning a 93% save rate on the night.

Goals were scored by #14 Joe Simon in the 1st, #15 Nikolai Charchenko, #11 Ben Almquist, #2 Brady Ziemer, and #13 Garrett Pinoniemi in the 2nd, and #13 Garrett Pinoniemi and #4 Danny Reddan in the 3rd. There were 10 collective assists on the night from Dan Reddan (1), Joe Hankinson (3), Ben Almquist (3), Garrett Pinoniemi (2), and Nikolai Charchenko (1).

Coach Noel Rahn had some thoughts on the team’s performance against Prior Lake. In addition, he also stated some of the team’s aspirations with three remaining regular-season games:

Tonight’s game was definitely competitive and at various points physical. Do you think this game was a reminder of the aggressiveness and nature of games that are to come?

“No, we’ve been playing a lot of physical teams – we got a really good non-conference. It will be that time of atmosphere come playoff time. Obviously, it’s part of their [Prior Lake] gameplan – they like to get a little physical but that isn’t new to us because we’ve got a good schedule and we’ve seen some strong AA teams.”

Overall, how do you feel the team played tonight?

“I thought we played OK in the first and then things turned around in the second. We got some early goals – timely goals. We needed to get all the forwards together but at the end of the day, I think we got all three lines together, the defensive line played a lot better, and we got some good saves.”

What are your goals for the upcoming games?

“We want to go undefeated in our conference play. We got to find a way to keep the momentum going, keep getting stronger, keep everybody healthy, finish out the season on a good run. Once playoffs come, we gotta be successful and ride that wave into sections. We gotta start locking down defensively – we’re gonna have to play a strong defensive game in the playoffs. Playing good defense is critical if we wanna achieve our goal: the state tournament.”

Boys hockey hosts Holy Family Senior Night at 3pm on Saturday (2/10) versus New Prague.