Rolling into the postseason
Magi hockey stomps Braves 8-0 in regular season finale
Already locked into the third seed for the upcoming West Region tournament, the Minot High School boys hockey team ensured Thursday night that a week from now they would see Bottineau/Rugby again.
The Magicians (11-9-1, 10-4-0 West Region) closed out the regular season with an 8-0 shutout win over Bottineau/Rugby (7-9-2, 2-7-2 West Region) to slot the Braves firmly into the No. 6 seed in the West.
Minot’s offense has exploded with 28 goals in its last three games.
“We are starting to find our groove,” MHS co-head coach Jason Bennett said. “Until we can prove it against the upper echelons in the state, we are happy with where we are at. We continue to get better every day. It would have been nice to get 10 (goals) tonight because I think that would have been the first time in school history (scoring 10 goals in three straight games). But, we will take eight.”
The Magi needed overtime to beat the Braves, 5-4, in their first meeting this season on Jan. 22. That certainly wasn’t the case Thursday, as Minot made a statement knowing they could force the Braves to face them once again next week at regionals.
“That’s the team we are going to face next Thursday,” Bennett said. “So, we sure didn’t want to give up three (goals) in the third (period) like we did down there. We are going to play until the buzzer. I think the officiating was sub-par tonight, but I thought we fought through that. We had six penalties and held them to seven shots, that’s probably the first time I have seen that in my coaching career.”
Minot outshot the Braves 41-7 in the contest.
A quick passing play from junior Kyler Stenberg to senior Jake Viall to the stick of senior Brock Bergrude rushing the net produced the opening goal. Bergrude’s fourth goal of the season was his third goal in Minot’s last three games.
“I haven’t scored too many this year, but I always like to chip in when I can,” Bergrude said. “We are coming along as a team, starting to move the puck and find some offense.”
The Magi doubled up a minute and a half later. With no open net to aim at from a tight angle, junior Mason Diehl decided to just shoot the puck into the pads of Braves goaltender Adam Lorenz. It paid off, as the puck inexplicably managed to sneak past Lorenz.
Minot led 2-0 after the first period while the Braves only mustered two shots on goal to test Magi junior goaltender Odin Nelson.
Two quick goals by Minot to start the second period effectively put the Braves on thin ice. Viall added to his earlier assist with a goal 21 seconds in and then senior Chayse Haberman was credited with a goal on what the official scorers saw as a slight redirect on a shot from the blue line by Samuel Opozda.
“I saw an open lane, decided to shoot the puck and it went in,” Opozda said. “Everyone has just gotten comfortable with each other and the passes are starting to click. Everything is flowing better and we understand stuff better. We have just started to roll.”
The goals just kept coming for Minot.
Sophomore Nicholas Murphy appropriately showed off his archer celly after going bar down, Opozda was given a goal that probably should have gone to teammate Hunter Cope on a redirect, senior Brett Davis deked out the goalie and senior Chayse Haberman added a power play tally.
When the dust finally settled, Minot was up 8-0 after the second period and the Braves were left shell-shocked. Riley Olson did have Bottineau/Rugby’s best scoring chance in the second period with a clear breakaway attempt, but was stoned by Nelson.
A running clock made for a quick, painless and scoreless third period.
Nelson made seven stops to record the shutout and pick up his seventh win on the season. Goaltender Tyler Olson replaced Lorenz for the Braves in the second period and he stopped all 13 shots he faced.
“It was nice for us to send a message,” Bennett said. “The 5-4 win earlier gave them a little bit of confidence, so maybe this demoralizes them a little if anything. But, they are a good team with a great coach and they are young, so I’m sure they will be ready to play on Thursday.”
The Magi host the West Region tournament next week, Thursday through Saturday, at Maysa Arena.
“Should get pretty packed in here and pretty loud,” Opozda said. “Should be very exciting.”
Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.