Majettes hockey state bound, ready to face the ‘elephant in the room’
Call it a curse. Call it an unfortunate coincidence. Or, just call it by how coach Weylin Wahlstrom phrased it, the “elephant in the room.” Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how it’s labeled.
The Minot High School girls hockey team knows what they are up against heading into the postseason. Since a 3-2 overtime win over Fargo South on Feb. 23, 2006, the Majettes have lost 11 straight first round games at the state tournament.
While unchangeable history haunts the program, this team can’t do anything to fix what happened in the past. Instead, these Majettes are focused on the present.
“You can’t get the elephant out of the room,” Wahlstrom said. “We can’t hide it. We can’t put a drape up in front of it. But, at the same time, we can’t focus on it either. We have to focus on the task at hand, which is coming in and play our best hockey at this time of the year… If we play our best hockey and lose, then so be it. But, if we play our best hockey, then I think we are going to like the result.”
In a rematch of a first round game played last season, the No. 5-seeded Majettes (13-10-0, 13-7-0 N.D. League) take on No. 4-seeded Fargo Davies (15-8-0, 13-6-0 N.D. League) in the first round of the state tournament at roughly 1:15 p.m. this afternoon at the Olympic Arena in Grand Forks.
The two teams split this regular season. Fargo Davies won 5-0 in Minot on Dec. 9 and the Majettes came back for a 4-2 win in Fargo on Jan. 27.
“It’s going to come down to the little things,” Wahlstrom said. “We just have to make less mistakes than they do, and we have to capitalize on their mistakes and make sure they don’t capitalize on ours. We are all going to make mistakes. It’s the state tournament. There are going to be a lot nerves coming into it, a lot of excitement. It’s just trying to contain that and use it in the right way.”
Minot was blanked 3-0 last season by the Eagles’ in the first round. Now-senior Fargo Davies goaltender Sydney Peterson made 28 saves in that shutout with fellow classmate Kylie Schafer scoring two goals.
Schafer, in her senior season, leads the Eagles with 19 goals. Five different skaters have scored 10 or more goals for the Eagles this season – Schafer, Alexis Sampson (15 goals), Faith Morris (13), Ali Matter (10) and Josie Froslie (10).
Getting pucks past Peterson, who allowed 1.88 goals per game with an 89.6 save percentage, is going to be one of the Majettes’ toughest challenges.
“It’s always low scoring and every game is tight, so anything can happen,” Wahlstrom said about the state tournament. “Every game our goal is to get the offense going right away. We always play better with the lead. But, later on in the season, we have overcome that need to score first. We have had games where we have needed to come back, some tight games and overtime games.”
Through an up-and-down season, from hanging with some of the best teams in the state to getting smacked 20-0 by Minnesota powerhouse Warroad, Minot has had plenty of experiences to learn from and can draw upon.
The biggest thing they have learned along the way is resilience.
“You could see early in the season that when they would score, we didn’t have that confidence that we could come back,” Wahlstrom said. “We learned how to overcome that… It’s one of the biggest things to have heading into the state tournament. We have definitely improved this year and we are playing our best hockey right now.”
The Majettes rely heavily on the three-prong attack of sophomore Dessa Flom, sophomore Kaya Shaw and junior Olivia Weisberg. All three were named to the All-WDA team, and Wahlstrom also nabbed WDA Coach of the Year honors.
Flom has had another stellar season with 38 points (27 goals, 11 assists) in 23 games. Since joining the team as a seventh grader, Flom has racked up 114 career points in 98 games.
Both Shaw and Weisberg have 13 goals. Seniors Lindsey Larson (14 points) and Maggie Sem (11), along with defenders Paige Ackerman (15) and Breanna Svangstu (12) are also among the seven Majettes to have over 10 points on the season.
“We played (Fargo Davies) early in the season and lost, so coming back and winning (against them) brought our spirits up and motivates us going into state to play as hard as we can,” Maggie Sem said. “The season was a little rocky at some points, but we came together and really pulled through.”
First-year freshman goaltender Amber Borkhuis started every game in net for the Majettes. She wrapped up the regular season with 11 wins (most in the WDA), 3.86 goals against per game and an 85 save percentage.
Protecting Borkhuis, Minot’s defense is rather young as well with two juniors in Breanna Svangstu and Mahlee Sem, plus a cast of underclassmen.
“As a D, we have been playing really well,” Mahlee Sem said. “We have stepped up and forwards have been getting a lot of shots on net, so that has helped us.”
Minot averaged 3.7 goals per game in the regular season. Finding that offensive production with a defense that has held opponents to two goals or fewer in 11 games this season, would finally end this drawn out narrative that has now spanned over a decade.
Perhaps kicking this elephant to the curb is just the inspiration the Majettes need to finally get over the hump.
“It motivates us more, honestly,” Maggie Sem said. “Just to go out there and win in the first round for once.”
Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.