Seeking consistency

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot High senior Jake Viall raises his arms after scoring a goal against Mandan on Nov. 28 at Maysa Arena.

Fighting to maintain a winning record through its first eight games, the Minot High School boys hockey team is hoping the fluctuation of its early season form is going to stabilize and trend upward in the near future.

Minot (4-4-0 overall) currently sits tied for third in the West Region standings with nine points and a 3-2-0 conference record. All four of the Magi losses have come against teams with substantially better records than them — Grand Forks Central (5-0-2), Bismarck Century (8-0-0) and Bismarck High (7-0-0) twice.

“We play a good period and then we play a bad period,” MHS co-head coach Jason Bennett said. “We play one good game and then the next game not so much. We are not consistent enough, but we are getting there.”

While the Magi have had an impressive balance of production throughout its lineup, it’s not been enough at times. It takes more than a couple of spurts of energy from a few players to carry the team.

“We are still trying to iron out all the winkles in terms of who is playing where,” Bennett said. “At times, we got two or three guys that are going and we just don’t have six guys consistently. That’s the hardest thing for us right now. We need two solid lines.”

Alex Eisen/MDN Magi junior forward Mason Diehl looks to make a pass in a game played earlier this season in Minot.

Sixteen Minot skaters have contributed to the team’s total of 58 points. Ten Magi have three points or more.

Strength in assertiveness, weakened by health

Minot is at its best when they score first. When they do, they are undefeated. When they don’t, they lose.

“We are a different team if we score first,” Bennett said.

In three out of their four losses, the Magi have given up two or more goals in the first period. They haven’t conceded a goal in the first period in any games that they have won.

Slowing Minot down recently has been injuries and illness. Senior defenseman Patrick Heide missed a couple of games with a wrist injury and a few players were sick when they last played Bismarck High.

“It would be nice to have everyone back and healthy,” Bennett said. “But, I think we are OK. Everybody goes through sickness.”

Bennett is hopeful that everyone will be good to go for Minot’s upcoming games.

Stepping up to make a difference

Leading the way this season has been senior forward Jake Viall with a team-high six goals and four assists for 10 points.

“(Jake) Viall’s numbers aren’t out of this world, but he has played well,” Bennett said. “He has forechecked extremely hard. And there is a kid like Chayse Haberman, who we moved back to defense and has been a diamond in the rough for us.”

Haberman, playing his first season as a defenseman, has three goals and three assists. Senior forward Sam Opozda was also recently moved to the blue line in the Bismarck High game and held his own, according to Bennett.

The most reliable line so far consists of a trio of sophomores.

“Our most consistent line has probably been our sophomore line with (Jack) Plemel, (Nick) Murphy and (Payton) Philion,” Bennett said.

Plemel and Murphy each have four points, while Philion sits on three points.

Juniors Kyler Stenberg and Mason Diehl both have three goals and three assists.

Bonding time in Roseau

The Magi have a six-hour bus trip to Roseau, Minnesota, ahead of them to conclude the calendar year with a three-day tournament. It’s an opportunity to play high quality out-of-state teams and bond as a team.

“There is not a whole lot to do there,” Bennett said. “We hang out at the hotel and go watch hockey. It’s good to get the kids together and keep them all off their phones.”

Minot will play Eau Claire Regis (Wisconsin) on Thursday, Lake of the Woods (Minnesota) on Friday and the hosts Roseau (Minnesota) on Saturday.

“Roseau has kids that are committed to play Division I,” Bennett said. “It’s good, physical hockey. They let you play and there is usually not a lot of penalties. It’s a character builder.”

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