JHS heads to state: Jays bounce back to win qualifierThe last wait was 12 years, but the Jamestown boys hockey team made sure a state-tournament drought of that proportion wouldn’t come close to being repeated in Minot on Saturday.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
The last wait was 12 years, but the Jamestown boys hockey team made sure a state-tournament drought of that proportion wouldn’t come close to being repeated in Minot on Saturday.
Jamestown standout Jake Stilwell coincidentally slapped home his 32nd goal of the season 32 seconds into overtime at All Seasons Arena, lifting the Blue Jays to a 4-3 OT victory over Mandan in a state-qualifying game of the West Region tournament.
The Jays’ 13th win of the season locked them into this week’s state hockey tournament in Grand Forks, where they’ll meet the East Region’s No. 1 team in Grand Forks Red River inside Ralph Engelstad Arena at noon on Thursday.
“It’s a pretty nice feeling,” JHS coach Matt Stockert said. “The kids overall played probably three of the most interesting hockey games that occurred all year long.
“They found some way to win two of them, and that’s what they needed to do to go to Grand Forks this week.”
Jamestown survived Bottineau/Rugby 9-7 in the opening round on Thursday, in the highest scoring game in the history of the West Region Tournament. Then during Friday’s semifinals, the Jays took the West’s No. 1 team, Bismarck Century, to double-overtime before the Patriots won 4-3 in the longest game played in the history of the West Region tournament.
The Blue Jays built a 3-0 lead over Mandan in Saturday’s state-qualifier, but the extra minutes played on Friday took its toll on the team. Mandan battled back behind back-to-back goals from junior forward Grant Aasand to tie the score at 3-all with 11 minutes to play in the third period.
“Right from the get-go, we had zero legs. We were gassed from the first two days,” Stockert said. “On Saturday, it was just a matter of, we’ve got to figure out a way to win a hockey game.”
It was a much undisciplined game on the part of the Braves. Mandan racked up 10 two-minute minor penalties, plus a game misconduct infraction enforced on Mandan standout Tre Kautzman.
Kautzman had a game he’d probably like to forget. The junior forward was whistled for two slashing minors, an unsportsmanlike conduct minor, a contact-to-the-head minor and a tripping minor before he was shown the door with 8:33 left to play in regulation.
Jamestown capitalized with 2 power-play goals in the game, starting with senior defenseman Dakotah Spitzer’s third goal of the year coming 11 minutes into the game to put the Jays out front 1-0.
The Blue Jays also got production from their second and third lines, as junior forward Nick Watne picked up goal No. 2 on the year just over 2 minutes into period No. 2.
“It’s fun,” Stockert said. “You’re kind of looking for that. As coaches you’ll say, ‘Hey purple line, we need you to get one today.’ And sure enough, Watne gets one.”
Stilwell made things 3-0 five minutes later, assisted by senior forward Jake Williams, but that’s when Mandan began to climb back into things. Aasand scored both a power-play and an equal-strength goal later in the second, and Mandan’s Brady Zittleman leveled the score 6 minutes into the third.
Jamestown outshot the Braves 28-22 in the game.
“We didn’t expect anything different than what actually happened,” Stockert said. “We were playing without one of our main defensemen, and I think that had a little bit to do with it.”
Junior Brady Hoggarth was forced to sit Saturday’s game out after picking up a 5-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind during Friday’s loss to Century.
Stilwell’s game-winner in OT came on the power-play, but credit must be given to Jamestown’s defensive tenacity and goaltending during the tournament.
Defenseman Matt Grounds, Brandon Stahlhut, Spitzer and Hoggarth led the way, along with the senior goalie tandem of Tygh Yatskis and Ben Walz. Officially, Yatskis picked up 59 saves during Friday’s heartbreaker to Century, while Walz notched 26 saves against Bottineau/Rugby and 19 saves on Saturday against the Braves.
Stilwell and Spitzer were tabbed for All-WDA honors.
“Talk about MVPs for the week, I thought we honestly had six of them,” Stockert said. “We had some great goaltending and great defensive play this week, and that’s why we won two out of three this weekend.”
Now the Blue Jays can focus on the state tournament and Red River.
Ironically, the last time the Blue Jays and the Roughriders met up was in the first round of the state tournament two years ago in 2011 — Jamestown’s last appearance at state. Red River got that one by the final of 7-1.
“(Red River) has some real special kids over there … from goaltenders, to defenseman, to forwards, they are the best the state of North Dakota has to offer right now as far as I’m concerned,” Stockert said. “But it is what it is. We’ll take on Red River and do everything we possibly can to muster up a victory.
“We’ll do whatever we need to do to figure out how to get it done.”
West Region Boys Hockey Tournament
At Minot All Seasons Arena
Jamestown 4, Mandan 3, OT
Mandan 0 2 1 0 — 3
Jamestown 1 2 0 1 — 4
1, J, Dakotah Spitzer (Jake Stilwell), 11:13 (PP).
2, J, Nick Watne (unassisted), 2:11; 3, J, Stilwell (Alex Williams), 7:42; 4, M, Grant Aasand (Brady Zittleman, Trevor Leingang), 8:17 (PP); 5, M, Aasand (Zittleman, Jackson Wenstrom), 11:43.
6, M, Zittleman (Aasand), 5:52.
7, J, Stilwell (Jakobi Lux, Wiliams), :32 (PP).
Goalie saves: M, Tucker Bruington 5-5-14-0—24; J, Ben Walz 6-6-7-0—19.
Penalties: M, 11 for 20 minutes; J, 4 for 8 minutes.
Records: Jamestown 13-11; Mandan 9-15.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com