The Minot High School boys hockey team has had trouble protecting a lead the last few games so it was understandable if fans were a little nervous when the Magicians jumped out to an early advantage against Bismarck High on Thursday.
But this time there was nothing to worry about.
With the Magicians leading by a goal with four minutes remaining, MHS sophomore forward Ethan Czaplewski buried the puck over the stick-side shoulder of Bismarck goaltender Brett Malkmus after a beautiful pass from senior forward Hayden Schwarz to seal a 5-2 victory over the Demons at Maysa Arena. Minot now trails Bismarck by seven points for the top spot in the West Region.
Minot High senior Jersey Kelly looks for a passing lane as Bismarck’s Johnny Witzke (25) tries to block his path Thursday at Maysa Arena. Kelly scored in the first period to give the Magicians a 2-0 lead.
"We've learned from our past experiences," MHS coach Chad Burckhard said. "We went through a little stretch where we played Jamestown, Dickinson and Century where we gave up leads. I think we've drawn on our past experiences and were able to finish."
After being shut out in their first tilt with the Demons - the only time MHS has failed to record a goal in a game this season - the Magicians (10-4-1 overall, 8-2 region) needed only 4:05 to light the lamp Thursday. MHS sophomore forward Logan Bischof knocked home a rebound in front of the net to give Minot the early lead. Malkmus made the initial save on MHS senior forward Quinn Fuchs, but Bischof fought through bodies in front of the net and beat the Demon netminder glove side.
"This win was really big," Czaplewski said. "It puts us in a pretty good spot. We're in the second spot now and hopefully we can get that top seed."
The Demons (12-3, 7-2) weren't afraid to throw bodies around as they had the size advantage with 13 skaters measuring at least six feet. That came back to bite them in the first period.
The Magicians had an extended 5-on-3 power play after BHS' Michael Matzke was called for contact to the head and Mick Folske was whistled for a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind on MHS freshman defenseman Easton Bennett. The call drew a misconduct penalty on Bismarck's coaching staff as well.
MHS senior forward Jersey Kelly capitalized on the two-man advantage with a power-play goal at 5:57 of the first period. Fuchs set up the goal by finding the 6-foot-2 target in front of the net with a pass from the left faceoff circle through traffic.
"Our power play got a couple goals against an extremely good penalty kill," Burckhard said. "Bismarck High has as aggressive a penalty kill as we see in high school hockey. So it was nice to get a couple power-play goals."
The Demons were whistled for 19 penalty minutes in the first period.
Finally at full strength in the second period, the Demons cut Minot's lead in half as senior forward Jared Spooner - Bismarck's leading scorer with 25 points - put Bismarck on the board. MHS junior defenseman Garrett
Picard lost his edge in the Magicians' defensive zone, allowing Spooner to skate in on net and fire a shot past MHS junior goaltender Breydan Effertz.
But penalties cost the Demons again as the Magicians scored their second power-play goal of the game at 10:18 of the second period to reclaim a two-goal lead. Bennett maneuvered past all four Bismarck skaters before scoring on a sharp-angle shot from the right faceoff circle.
"The coaches were telling us to shoot the puck at the net all night," Bennett said. "I had a tough angle and I just decided to throw it on net."
Effertz bounced back from a rough outing Tuesday against Century. After allowing four goals in 17 minutes two days earlier, Effertz recorded 35 saves.
"I could have told you Tuesday night at the beginning of the second period when he wasn't in during the Century game that he was going to be fine tonight," Burckhard said. "He's not a kid that's going to feel sorry for himself or make excuses. He was really good for us and made some really big saves."
The Magicians travel to Bottineau on Monday at 7:30 p.m.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.