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Majettes rally for 3-2 win in season opener

James Jackson/MDN Minot High junior All-State goaltender Jillian Ackerman earned the win in a 21-save performance for the Majettes in Tuesday night’s season opener.

Driven by a shared goal to net their first state title in school history, the Minot High Majettes girls’ hockey team took to the ice Tuesday night at the Maysa Arena for their 2022-2023 season opener against a revamped Century Patriots program.

Working hard and preparing all off-season to improve on their 10-10-3-1 overall record in 2021-2022, head coaches Makayla Neuhalfen and Christopher Stokke have Minot High entering the new year not only striving to capture their first WDA championship in ten years, but aspiring to climb to the pinnacle of the North Dakota girls’ hockey mountain and claim their first state title in Majettes history.

Returning an abundance of decorated skill players on both sides of the puck, Minot High is anchored and balanced by a pair of 2021-2022 North Dakota Class A Girls’ Hockey All-State and All-WDA Team juggernauts in the form of junior goaltender Jillian Ackerman and senior forward Taylyn Cope.

Joining Ackerman and Cope in leading the Majettes on the hunt for titles this season is fellow All-WDA Team forward and senior standout Payton Lang.

Hitting the rink across from Minot High and gunning to put a damper on the Majettes’ season opener were the Century Patriots, a team looking for a victory to open a new chapter of hockey in the school’s history.

Dividing up the perennial powerhouse Bismarck Blizzard squad that was formed from a combination of students from the four high schools across the city, this year’s Century Patriots unit is comprised of players from Century and St. Mary’s, while Bismarck High and Legacy merged to become a co-op of their own.

Helmed by head coach Tim Meyer, the Patriots will lean heavily on the leadership and impact play of junior 2021-2022 All-State forward Brenna Curl, as the team embarks on their inaugural journey towards a state hockey championship.

Much like the snow flurries that intermittently graced the Minot area throughout the day on Tuesday, it wouldn’t take long for the puck to fly in the wake of the first face-off of the new season for both squads.

From the get-go at the Pepsi Rink, an exuberant crowd packed with Majettes and Patriots fans alike were stirred into a state of hockey-induced frenzy as the pace of play quickly ratcheted up to full throttle in the opening moments of the first period.

Showing no signs of jitters or rust, both goalies had their mettle tested early, with Minot’s Ackerman and Century’s Kambree Grabar knocking down several shots each via pad and stick saves to set the defensive tone of the contest.

However, a prolonged stint in the Majettes zone, coupled with a consistent string of shots on goal, would culminate in the Patriots taking a 1-0 lead and putting their first points of the new season on the board.

In fitting fashion, Century’s All-State center Curl took a beautiful pass in front of the net from senior forward Josie Anfinson and tucked a shot into the left corner of the net to beat Ackerman for her first goal of her junior campaign with 11:08 left in the opening period.

Despite a near-even 7-6 shots-on-goal ratio between the teams as time dwindled down on the opening 17 minutes of play, the Minot High offense was unable to conjure up an equalizer goal, while Curl once again found the back of the net on a beautiful wrister with 1:17 left on the clock to extend the Patriots advantage to 2-0 to end the period.

Understanding the need to go to work even harder offensively to give themselves a chance for the win, the Majettes scoring machine roared to life in the next 17 minutes of battle, leading to Minot High eventually knotting the game at 2-2 heading into the third and final period of play.

Just one minute into the second period, Minot High put together their best scoring chance of the game to that point when senior forward Marissa Votava nearly drew the Majettes to within one score of tying the game when her backhand shot careened off the post for an unlucky break for the offense.

Nevertheless, the Majettes proceeded to reside in the Patriots’ zone for most of the second period, resulting in goals by sophomore forward Fallon Fagerland at the 9:05 mark and freshman right winger Eve Sling with just 49.7 seconds left before intermission to draw the game even at 2-2.

Assisting Fagerland on her goal was senior forward Martine Hammer and junior forward Maicee Burke, while All-State left winger Cope set up Sling for the first goal of her young Majettes career.

Heading into the final period of play, the season opener remained either team’s game to win, subsequently leading to a nail-biting conclusion to the first contest of the year.

Focused on the task at hand, the Majettes showed their chops on both sides of the puck, as Ackerman provided plentiful evidence as to why she earned All-State accolades last year by handling a number of troublesome Century shots with poise, ultimately giving her All-State teammate Cope the time needed to deflect a blue-line blast from freshman forward Brynn Hanson past Century’s Graber for what panned out as the game-deciding goal at the 10:53 mark to solidify Minot High’s 3-2 victory.

After notching their first win of the new season, Minot High will take to the road for a contest with the Devils Lake Firebirds at 7 p.m. on Friday.

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