Dealing first defeat

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot High senior Evan Bolinske (9) has his shot saved by Century goalkeeper Conor Fehr (green) in a West Region boys soccer game Tuesday at the Optimist Soccer Complex.

First place in the West Region standings was at stake Tuesday, as the Minot High School boys soccer team welcomed undefeated Bismarck Century to the Optimist Soccer Complex in Minot

Following a scoreless first half, the Magicians (4-3-1, 4-0-1 West Region) sliced open the Patriots’ defense with two goals by senior Evan Bolinske and lefty finish by sophomore Noah Schmidt to take down Century, 3-0.

The Patriots (6-1-0, 4-1-0 West Region) had conceded only two goals in four conference games coming into the match against Minot.

“Century is a quality side and at the top of the WDA every single year, and in the state,” MHS coach Creighton Bachmeier said. “To come out here, get three goals and shut them out on your own turf, it’s important. Not just the three points, but that this group is capable of special things. When we play our best, then there are not many teams that can beat us.”

The first half had the Magi pressuring the Patriots’ net with corner after corner. While possession was rather even, Minot dominated in quality scoring chances.

Bolinske had a handful of opportunities, yet Century goalkeeper Conor Fehr was always there diving across his goal; one attempt coming from point blank range and another from outside the box.

Fellow senior forward JJ Johannsen sailed a shot over the goal with 12 minutes left in the first half that dropped Bachmeier to his knees and shielding his eyes on the sidelines.

“It was almost like we gave them too much credit because they are the Century Patriots,” Bachmeier said about the first half. “We made a few different switches tactically in where we needed to play the ball and thought we could exploit those areas. And that’s the reward we got with three goals in the second half.”

At halftime, the shot count foreshadowed what was coming. Minot outshot Century 9-1 with a 7-2 edge in corner kicks. By the end of the game, it was 19-2 in shots (8-2 on target) and 8-3 on corner kicks in favor of Minot.

Fittingly enough after coming so close in the first 40 minutes, it was Bolinske that came through in the second half, as a through ball by senior Avery Weishaar put him in behind with a defender on his hip. The Century defender took a tumble and stopped the ball with his arm while going to the ground.

Shouts from the Minot bench of a hand ball were ignored. It didn’t matter. Bolinske picked up the loose ball and slotted it into the bottom left corner to break the deadlock with 27:39 remaining in regulation.

“Avery (Weishaar) played a good ball to me,” Bolinske said. “I thought it was a hand ball, but I don’t know. I saw the keeper out of the net, had a go and it went in.”

Seven minutes later, Bolinske delivered again. Taking in a ball from the wing by Johannsen, Bolinske was met right away by another Century defender in the 18-yard box and was taken down for a penalty kick.

No nerves were shown on the spot kick with a clean finish into the bottom left corner once more by Bolinske.

“I’m always confident on penalty kicks,” he said. “I had no other thought then scoring.”

The Magi found the net once more four minutes later, 17 minutes left in the contest. Schmidt curled in a shot with his left foot to the near post while being tightly covered.

Minot junior goalkeeper Jaden Francis only had to make two saves in the game to earn the shutout. That said, a one-handed punch away on a header by Century’s Justin Weigel with 11 minutes remaining was one of the best saves of the night.

Minot’s defense didn’t give Century much to work with.

“A shutout is always the vision,” senior defender Hadley Thomas said. “We are always thinking clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet. We just stay organized, everyone is on the same page and we are always covering for each other. It’s always our same game. Minot defense, right now, we are the best in the state.”

Bachmeier added: “It was flawless. There were a couple times we needed to be more urgent in our own box. We have been preaching that and practicing that. We can’t keep giving teams second chances on corner kicks or dead ball fouls. We got to clear that thing out… If you do those small things, then you are going to get shutouts.”

With the victory, Minot is up to 13 points in the West Region with Century falling back to second place with 12 points.

“It’s a nice little side note,” Bachmeier said about moving to the top of the standings. “But, it’s at the end of the year that I want to be first in the WDA and then first at state. So, it’s just a stepping stone.”

The next obstacle on the Magi’s journey is Jamestown at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Optimist Soccer Complex.

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.