Devils Lake was intent on making the Minot High School boys hockey team take hits for the entire 51 minutes of Tuesday's non-conference game at Maysa Arena.
The Magicians delivered their fair share of checks as well, but ultimately focused on making plays on the puck. MHS (3-2 overall) kept its composure enough to outshoot the Firebirds 40-19 and break a 3-3 tie with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Minot sophomore Mason Morelli scored two goals, including the game winner on a breakaway with 1:57 left in the game. Senior Josh Colleaux added an open-netter in the final minute of their 5-3 win.
Minot High School’s Jake Smith skates up ice while Devils Lake’s Jake Anderson trails Tuesday at Maysa Arena.
"I just saw open ice and the defenseman was pressuring me and kind of forcing me toward the boards, so I just took a chance and took the middle ... and buried my chance," Morelli said.
The chippy contest saw four minor penalties for the Magicians, one for the Firebirds (1-4) and a five-minute, checking-from-behind hit, which led to the ejection of Devils Lake junior Damond Brokke.
Brokke's blindside hit came directly in front of the scorekeeper's box and crumpled Minot senior Quinlan Axtman as he crashed into the boards. Axtman said it's always a hard-hitting game with Devils Lake.
"It happens. Neither of us could prevent it," Axtman said. "I think it was an accident. I just hit my back. I kind of pretzeled when I hit the boards and my back spasmed."
The officials believed the hit was preventable and promptly tossed Brokke, who will serve the one-game suspension attached to all ejections in high school hockey. Axtman returned to the ice after missing a few line shifts and being cleared by an athletic trainer.
Even the officials felt the tenacity of the game's hitting. One linesman slowly got back to his skates after taking the brunt of a collision in the second period.
"We tried to keep our cool the best we could," Morelli said. "There were times where they did get in our head a couple times, we did pick up a couple penalties ... but we did keep our cool for the most part."
Sophomore Hayden Schwarz and senior Jake Stach scored Minot's first two goals, as both players notched their first points of the seasons. Senior Sam Ebert and sophomore Quinn Fuchs each had three assists.
"We played extremely well in the first period and put a lot of pucks at their young goaltender," Minot coach Chad Burckhard said. "He stood up to the challenge early on and it started frustrating our guys a little bit."
Burckhard noticed the frustration getting to Morelli, who didn't score his first goal until five minutes into the third period.
"Mason's just so big and strong," Burckhard said. "I thought Mason did an outstanding job of finishing (his second goal) off for us."