Late magic lifts Magi hockey to state tournament

BISMARCK — Skating confidently into the West Region Tournament with the program’s first WDA regular-season title since the 2015-16 season, the top-seeded Magicians found themselves less than two minutes away from missing the state tournament altogether.

The Minot High School boys hockey team trailed 2-1 in a must-win state qualifier contest Saturday afternoon against No. 3-seeded Mandan in Bismarck.

With 1:09 left in regulation, MHS junior forward Aiden Morelli found a desperation equalizer. Riley Opperude provided the critical assist to send the game into overtime.

Isaiah Thongphet snuck a puck through Mandan goaltender Zane Clausen in the extra frame to ignite a bench-clearing celebration. His brother, Gabe Thongphet, provided the game-winning assist.

With a 3-2 overtime win, Minot escaped a near-disastrous West Region Tournament to secure its 37th all-time appearance at the state tournament next weekend.

MHS senior forward Nicholas Murphy opened the scoring halfway through the second period. His 13th goal of the season was assisted by Jayden Luck, who registered his team-leading 31st point.

Mandan didn’t score against Minot in the two regular-season meetings between the two teams. With time running out on Saturday, the Braves struck twice.

Tyler Yantzer tied the game with 8:35 left in the third period. Roughly five minutes later, Ryan Blowers beat MHS goaltender Tre Sortland once again, 2-1.

Mandan was on the cusp of back-to-back state tournament appearances for the first time since the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

Morelli, however, wasn’t going to let the Magicians’ season come crashing down in flames inside the VFW Sports Center in Bismarck.

Isaiah Thongphet followed suit and ended the nerve-wracking affair 2:24 into overtime, 3-2.

Minot outshot Mandan 41-18. Sortland made 16 saves, compared to Clausen’s 38 saves.

Luck, Opperude and Sortland made the All-WDA Tournament Team.

The Magi will be the West Region No. 3 seed at the state tournament. Minot’s first-round opponent will be East Region No. 2 Fargo South/Shanley. Puck drop is set for 2:30 p.m. on Thursday (Feb. 27) at the Scheels Arena in Fargo.

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