January was a month to remember for Michael Stumpf.
The junior netminder for Class 1A’s 13th-ranked Little Falls Flyers allowed just three goals in eight Flyers’ victories during the month.
He posted five shutouts and ran a streak of 180 minutes and 52 seconds of scoreless hockey before a third-period goal by Bill Rodning of Fergus Falls found the net in the third period in the Flyers’ 7-1 win.
Stumpf finished with 19 saves in the victory over the Section 6-1A opponent.
“That’s pretty outstanding,” said Flyers head coach Tony Couture. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. I don’t care if they’re good teams or not so good, you’re bound to give up a power-play goal or a fluke goal. But we haven’t given up a power-play goal since Dec. 29. We’ve gone through eight games without giving up a power play and that’s usually when people take the most shots.”
Stumpf made 22 saves in the Flyers’ 4-0 victory over Sartell Jan. 19. Two days prior, Stumpf made 12 saves in a 7-0 defeat of Mora. He finished off the month collecting seven saves in a 4-0 win of Alexandria Jan. 31.
“We’ve won 12 in a row now and sometimes you forget about how good he’s played,” Couture said. “Everyone is feeling pretty comfortable with him behind them, so sometimes you don’t realize what he’s done.
After a 3-6 start when Stumpf and the team struggled, Couture pointed to a 5-3 come-from-behind victory over Rogers Dec. 22 as a turning point.
“We had a really tough start,” Stumpf said. “We were 3-6 and played five or six top-ranked teams and lost a couple of others by one goal. We turned things around by playing more as a team and getting better chemistry. We improved our power play and penalty kill and the defensive guys have been great. We just played better as a team.”
The three-year varsity starter leads the section in shutouts with six and minutes played through 21 games. Before the Alexandria game, Stumpf made 436 saves for a save percentage of 91.6 and a goals-against average of 2.0. Last season, he registered a section-best 1.6 GAA and a 93.2 save percentage. He logged 1,033 minutes and made 440 saves, helping Little Falls to a 20-4-2 record.
Stumpf said he’s improved at playing the puck and communicating with his defense. Couture likes his goalie’s mental toughness.
“I try to get out of the locker room early because there are, I’ll call them, a lot of distractions going on in there,” Stumpf said about his mental preparation before a game. “You want to hang out with the guys, but there’s a time and a place to have fun and it’s not before a game.
“I like to go outside and throw a ball around to get my hand-eye coordination going. I’ll stretch and watch the JV game. It gets me mentally ready.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Nathan Holm, Pine River-Backus, scored 29 points against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
Grant Bell, Little Falls, scored 25 points against St. Cloud Cathedral.
Caleb Janson, Pierz, scored 25 points against Staples-Motley.
Preston Weber, Pierz, scored 22 points against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and 27 against Staples-Motley.
Hockey: Joey Hanowski, Little Falls, finished with two goals and an assist against Fergus Falls.
Wrestling: Jordan Chouanard, Aitkin, set the school record for career pins against Deer River.
Blake Petrich, Staples-Motley, won the 195-pound weight class at the Mid-State Conference tournament and was named tournament MVP.
Jace Loge, Darian Rubner, Peter Harrison and Justin Mackenthun, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, won individual championships at the Mid-State Conference tournament.
Blake Miller, Staples-Motley, won an individual championship at the Mid-State Conference tournament.
Cole Grinsteinner, Crosby-Ironton, won an individual championship at the Mid-State Conference tournament.
Brad Meyer and Nathan Tomala, Pierz, won individual championships at the South St. Paul tournament.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.