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KCs capture first at Bemidji Miller paces team with seven goals

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The KC PeeWee ‘AA’ rep hockey team won all four of its games last weekend, including a 6-5 victory over Grand Forks in the final, to win a 16-team tournament in Bemidji.

The KCs had picked up second-place finishes at tournaments in Warroad and Kenora earlier this season.

“We’ve been playing well all year and things have been going good for us," co-coach Gib Tucker said yesterday. "We’re probably playing better than we thought we would.”

Nathan Miller led the KCs with seven goals in four games there, including a hat trick in the final against Grand Forks. In fact, it was his last goal in the third that snapped a 5-5 tie to earn the win.

Tucker said the line of Miller, Kris Esselink, and Ira Ottertail was their most dominant one last weekend—scoring key goals while shutting down Grand Forks’ top offensive player.

“We knew Grand Forks had one player who was scoring six or seven goals a game so we wanted to neutralize him," said Tucker. ”We felt if we could keep him down to two or three goals, we had a chance to win.

The Fort pucksters jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead in the final before the game was 12 minutes old on goals by Esselink, Miller, and A.J. Tucker.

After Grand Forks sliced the lead to 3-2, Esselink and Miller scored again in a 1:22 span to stretch the margin to 5-2 in the second.

But Grand Forks fought back, scoring a pair of goals less than a minute later and then tying the game at 5-5 early in the third, setting up Miller’s game-winning heroics.

Still, Tucker said the tournament win was a total team effort, noting they received strong performances from all three forward lines as well as their defencemen and goalies.

The KCs reached the final when Tucker scored a dramatic game-winning goal with just 20 seconds to play in a 3-2 win over Cloquet, Mn. in the semi-finals.

Ottertail and Bryce Witherspoon also scored for the Fort.

The KCs opened the tournament—which attracted teams from North Dakota, Minnesota, Manitoba, and Wisconsin—with a 5-3 win over St. Cloud.

Miller led the way with a pair of goals while Dennis Morrison, Donald Kellar, and Tucker added singles.

Then against New Richmond, Wis., Tucker, Esselink, and Miller each scored twice en route to a 9-0 whitewash. Steve Vandulman, Witherspoon, and Kellar also tallied.

The KCs next tournament action is Jan. 16-18 in Dryden, then the team will host one here Jan. 23-25.

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