High-powered Patriots push past Magi hockey 5-1

Alex Eisen/MDN Century junior Kirklan Irey (10) and Minot senior Logan Braaten (right) overtop of Magi junior goaltender Odin Nelson in a West Region boys hockey game played Tuesday night at Maysa Arena.

There is a reason why the Bismarck Century boys hockey team is undefeated in the West Region and, for the second time this season, the outmatched Magicians found out why.

The relentless Patriots (11-2-0, 7-0-0 WDA) took control with a 3-0 lead after the first period and maintained a comfy cushion throughout to knock off Minot High (6-8-1, 5-3-0 WDA), 5-1, Tuesday evening at Maysa Arena.

For the Magi’s sake, at least the outcome was a little bit better than what happened earlier in the season — a 8-0 loss on Dec. 7 in Bismarck.

“The end result is the same,” MHS co-head coach Jason Bennett said. “The first time we played them, maybe we were more disciplined. But, we got off to a decent start tonight.”

Trying to hold off the Patriots for as long as possible, the first shot on goal for either team came six minutes into the game.

But eventually, even with Minot on the power play, Century couldn’t be contained.

A perfectly placed drop pass from senior Isaiah Thomas found junior Kirklan Irey to set up the first goal. The short-handed tally came with 9:01 left in the first period and bounced off junior MHS goaltender Odin Nelson before reaching the back of the net.

“Odin (Nelson) would like to have that one back,” Bennett said. “The demeanor on the bench kind of dropped (after the first goal) and we disappeared for a few minutes, and then boom, next thing you know it’s 3-0. They are a good hockey team and they will do that to you.”

Irey increased his numbers as the state leader in points (40) and goals (18). While Thomas (11 goals and 23 assists) and junior defenseman Carter Bailey (nine goals and 19 assists) also came into the contest ranked third and fourth, respectively, in total points in the state.

Thomas assisted on Century’s first three goals.

A quick redirect pass by Irey across the goal hit junior Nicholas Brown on the tape of his stick for an easy tap-in to put the Patriots up 2-0. Then, senior Casey Foss added a power play goal to give Century a three-goal lead after the opening period.

“We don’t play from behind very well,” Bennett said. “I don’t know what it is. But, I thought we responded really well in the second and third (periods), finally. We could have easily packed it up like we did down there and it’s 8-0. But, looking at the last two periods, it’s a 2-1 hockey game.”

Junior defenseman Paydin Slette fooled Nelson with a shot from the blue line to keep Century rolling, 4-0, exactly six minutes into the second period.

Some energy in Maysa Arena was restored after junior forward Mason Diehl got the Magi on the scoreboard halfway through the period. His power play effort was assisted by junior Kyler Stenberg and senior Logan Braaten.

With the second period winding down, Brown broke free for his second goal of the game. It was an unassisted breakaway opportunity that he used a slick backhand-to-forehand deke to beat Nelson.

“Probably pride,” Bennett said sparked a better Minot performance in the second and third periods. “You don’t want to be embarrassed on home ice. Honesty, that’s what it comes down to.”

Rotating between three goaltenders throughout the season, senior Cooper Leininger got the start in net for Century. He made 24 saves, 18 in a scoreless third period, to get the win.

Nelson made 34 saves, as the Patriots outshot the Magi 39-24.

“We tell them that we can’t score the goals for them,” Bennett said. “That’s what they are going to have to figure out. We are having a hard time scoring and guys are going to have to step up. It’s getting to the point where we are running out of games.”

The Magi’s top scorer this season, senior forward Jake Viall with 14 points (eight goals and six assists), was held off the scoresheet on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Diehl and Stenberg both joined the rather exclusive MHS double-digit point club on Minot’s lone goal of the game.

The Magi complete their four-game homestand at Maysa Arena against the reigning West Region champions, their other Bismarck rival, in the Demons. Bismarck High strolls into Minot Thursday for a 7:30 p.m. opening faceoff. Minot lost at Bismarck High, 5-3, earlier in the season on Dec. 12.

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