In a matchup of two of the top teams in the West Region, Thursday's contest between Minot High and Bottineau-Rugby lived up to its billing.
The pair of heavyweights took each other's best shot, but Minot's one-two punch of junior forwards Jersey Kelly and Quinn Fuchs helped the Magicians defeat the Braves 7-4 on Senior Night at Maysa Arena.
Kelly recorded a hat trick with two goals coming in the third period and Fuchs registered the game-winning goal at six minutes, three seconds of the frame. The two combined for five goals and two assists.
Minot High sophomore Matt Flom looks to get a shot off as Bottineau-Rugby’s Cody Longie defends on Thursday at Maysa Arena.
"It doesn't get any better than this," Kelly said. "It was an intense crowd. The crowd was awesome. I couldn't play in a better environment. I hope they come to WDA like that."
Said Fuchs: "It's a great win, especially on Senior Night, winning it for our seniors. What they did to us up in Bottineau kind of hurt us, so we wanted to bounce back and get a big win for the team."
Kelly began the scoring onslaught on the Magicians' first power-play opportunity at 13:24 of the first period after a few missed chances earlier in the frame. Kelly took the puck from Fuchs while circling behind B-R's net and stuffed the puck past goaltender Riley Monson to give Minot (13-7-1 overall, 11-3 region) the early lead.
"Jersey's been playing at such a high level for us over the last month," MHS coach Chad Burckhard said. "He's just getting better every day."
But - as was the case in the first two periods - the Braves (14-3-1, 10-2-1) countered to tie the game. Wyatt Johnson scored his first of two power-play goals two minutes later, redirecting Cody Longie's slap shot from the blue line.
"We're not blessed with a lot of players on the team," B-R coach David Hoff said. "We rely on a few guys to score a lot and tonight it didn't go our way, especially in the third period. We made it tough on ourselves."
Both teams came out swinging in the second period. Before it was over, six goals and 12 penalty minutes had been registered. Yet the teams remained deadlocked.
Minot junior defenseman-turned-forward Hayden Schwarz scored the first two goals of the second period, giving the Magicians their largest lead of the contest. Schwarz's goals came 1:24 apart, with the latter tally coming on the power play.
The Magicians' lead was short-lived as B-R's Harrison Aide - the state's leading scorer with 74 points entering Thursday's game - and Andrew Hill scored 41 seconds apart.
"Very physical game," Fuchs said. "Chippy, lots of penalties. We tried to stay 5-on-5, but in the second period we got away from it and it showed."
The last time Minot faced off against the Braves, the Magicians couldn't stop Aide, who recorded four goals in a 5-4 B-R victory in Bottineau.
Aide was his own worst enemy Thursday as he spent nearly as much time in the penalty box as he did on the ice. Aide took a two-minute misconduct penalty in the second period and ended his night early with 16 minutes worth of penalties in the third. With 8:41 left in regulation, Aide was assessed a roughing minor, cross-checking double-minor and a 10-minute misconduct and spent the rest of the game in the penalty box.
"I think Harrison just got frustrated," Burckhard said. "Unfortunately, sometimes emotions get high in the game and it happens."
Hoff had no comment on Aide.
The teams combined for 19 penalties totaling 46 minutes. The Magicians finished 3-for-4 on the power play, while the Braves converted 2-of-6 chances with the man advantage.
"It's a heated rivalry," Kelly said. "That's about it."
Minot and B-R are in action today. The Magicians host Dickinson at 5:30 p.m. at All Seasons Arena and the Braves welcome Bismarck Century at 7:30 p.m.