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Caleb Petrie

Caleb Petrie has scored two goals so far this season for Bismarck High, which is off to a 3-0 start. Eight Demons have scored goals and 15 have registered points through three games.

There aren't many hockey résumés longer, or better, in North Dakota than Mike Peluso's.

Still, the head coach of the Bismarck High Demons started the new season with a slightly different strategy.

Off to a 3-0 start, following Tuesday night's 7-0 rout of Mandan, things are trending in the right direction. 

"No matter how long you've been around you're always looking to grow. You can never stop learning," Peluso said. "In this era of high school sports you're always looking to evolve and trying to find the best way to get your kids to respond to what you're teaching them."

The blanking of the Braves was an impressive result considering Mandan's early-season score sheets. The Braves had already beaten two teams picked ahead of them -- Minot and Jamestown -- and came close against another (Dickinson).

Peluso, with 15 years coaching experience for the Demons and Bismarck Bobcats following his pro playing career -- which included time in the NHL -- felt like progress didn't come soon enough last season.

"I just thought it took us way too long to start playing the way we need to in order to have success consistently," he said. "We as a coaching staff spent a lot of time trying to figure out what we needed to do to get things going quicker."

It's working.

Through three games the Demons have a plus-11 goal differential.

Senior Dain Sardelli is off to a sizzling start with four goals and two assists in just three games. He's not alone, though.

Seniors Caleb Petrie and Kadin Sullivan have two goals each as do sophomore Caiden Schwehr and junior Greyson Farnsworth. In all, eight Demons have goals (Jack Steckler, Alex Krug, Braxton Ness) and 15 points. All of which is part of the plan.

"We've always prided ourselves at Bismarck High on giving as many kids opportunities to play as possible," Peluso said. "We're not about playing four or five kids. We want to play 20. We believe that gives us the best opportunity for success late in the year.

"We don't want just one guy carrying the mail."

The Demons are showing a winning combination of skill and sandpaper.

"We have some really high-end guys, no question, but we also have some really good worker-bee players," said Peluso. "Finding the formula where everybody fits together and is working together, that's what we're looking for."

Same is true in goal where sophomores Quinn Ackerman (2-0) and Logan Hendrickson (1-0) are rotating.

"I always tell them, I don't pick who plays, they pick who plays based on their performance in practice and that goes across the board," Peluso said.

While early returns on the tweaks are promising, there certainly was no need for a major overhaul. Bismarck High has played in five state titles games the last decade, including a championship in 2014.

The Demons play their first West Region road game tonight at Wilson Arena in Jamestown against the Blue Jays where things have been known to get a little "squirrely" through the years.

It's another opportunity for the young players on the roster -- five sophomores and two freshmen are getting regular ice time -- to grow.

"I know what our older guys can bring and it's just a matter of seeing our younger players continue to make positive strides," Peluso said. "Every point this time of year is crucial. You don't want to give anything away that could prevent you from getting the best possible position down the road."

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Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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