Jays finish fourth at stateGRAND FORKS — The saying goes, it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — The saying goes, it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season.
Well, how about four?
The Jamestown Blue Jay girls hockey team did all it could to end its stellar season on a high note in the third-place game of the state hockey tournament at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday. The effort was certainly there, but fresher legs and a pair of goals by Grand Forks’ Nicole Novak were too much for the Jays to overcome.
For the first time in four games between the two teams this season, Grand Forks ended up on the winning side of the scoreboard, defeating the Blue Jays 4-1.
“I think the difference was pretty simple,” Grand Forks coach Darin Schumacher said. “After three games in one weekend (Jamestown’s) Amber Schaack was a little tired, so I think that was really it.
“If (Jamestown) had more people and she was fresher, I think it would have been a lot closer.”
The No. 4-seeded Blue Jays were facing an incredibly tall task all weekend. They were able to defeat Fargo South/Davies 4-2 in the opening round — a tough No. 5 seed who they’d never defeated before — and then they had to face No. 1 West Fargo, falling 7-2, before meeting up with Grand Forks who was the tournament’s No. 2 seed.
The weekend’s grind had to have taken its toll on Jamestown’s 11 skaters and one goalie, but coach Brad Schaack pointed out it was nothing the team hadn’t grown accustomed to.
“We gave it our all. Yeah, they might have had a little tired legs out there, but we’ll never make that as an excuse,” Schaack said. “We’ve been doing it for two years with this group of girls with these numbers, and Grand Forks was a better team today.”
Grand Forks senior forward Ashley Becker scored her 22nd goal of the season with just under 7 minutes to play in the first period to put the Knight-Riders out front 1-0. The Jays were outshot just 11-7 in the first 17 minutes, but the team did all they could just to hang on in the second.
Grand Forks fired 20 more shots at Jamestown goalie Carissa Finck in the second, scoring just once on Novak’s 23rd goal of the season. Jamestown mustered just 5 shots on goal in frame.
Both of Novak’s goals were second-chance opportunities in front of the net, which is something a team can’t afford to give to one of the state’s best scorers.
Novak ended her senior season fifth in the state in scoring with 60 points (24 goals, 36 assists), just ahead of Amber Schaack’s 52 points (41 goals, 11 assists).
“(Novak’s) a good kid. She plays the game the right way, and would fit on my team real well,” Brad Schaack said. “She’s not dirty, she just goes about her business and plays hockey.”
Novak put the Knight-Riders up 3-0 with a power-play goal with 6:57 left in the game. It was the only power-play goal in a game that saw 10 combined penalties.
“We did have a couple of opportunities on the power play, but they shut our lanes off, they got on our sticks, they blocked shots. They did what a Grand Forks team is capable of doing,” Schaack said. “For my kids to be 3-1 against them, although losing the one you don’t want to lose in the last game of the season, is still pretty cool.”
Jamestown senior forward Larissa Wiest got the goose egg of the board for the Jays with her eighth goal of the year nearly 3 minutes later, but that’s all the offensive Jamestown was able to come up with.
Grand Forks outshot the Jays 42-25, and an empty-netter by Lexi O’Halloran with 9 seconds left wrapped up the final score. Finck picked up 38 saves in her final game for the Blue Jays.
“It was a fun game,” Schumacher said. “You know, if they have five more people it’s going to be a lot different score because man do they work hard.”
It was the first game all season in which Amber Schaack didn’t tally a goal. She had scored a goal in each of the previous 25 games played by Blue Jays.
She did, however, pick up Senior Athlete of the Year honors at the conclusion of the tournament.
“She’s a heck of player. It’s going to be kind of sad to see us not playing against her,” Schumacher said. “For four years I’ve been watching her play, and she’s developed real good and she’s an excellent person to watch play hockey.”
Jamestown’s magical season ended with its best post-season finish and a record of 18-8. But it was even more bittersweet as coach Brad Schaack confirmed the rumors that he was retiring from coaching following the game.
“Regardless of what happened today, it’s going to be a season I’ll never forget about,” Brad Schaack said. “It’s been a special four years, and who knows? Maybe I’ll come back and do this sometime again.”
High School State Girls Hockey Tournament
At Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks
Grand Forks 4, Jamestown 1
Jamestown 0 0 1 — 1
Grand Forks 1 1 2 — 4
1, GF, Ashley Becker (Nicole Novak, Christina Schlosser), 10:16.
2, Novak (unassisted), 5:12.
3, GF, Novak (Shelby Brossart), 7:31 (PP); 4, J, Larissa Wiest (unassisted), 10:03; 5, GF, Lexi O’Halloran (unassisted), 16:51 (EN).
Goalie saves: J, Carissa Finck 10-19-9—38; GF, Jerrica Rosendahl 7-5-12—24.
Penalties: J, 4 for 8 minutes; GF, 6 for 12 minutes.
Final records: Grand Forks 18-8; Jamestown 18-8.
Hayley Walsh, Sr., F, West Fargo (unanimous selection); Alex Woken, Fr., F, Fargo South-Davies; Haleigh Springan, Sr., F, Bismarck; Amber Schaack, Sr., D, Jamestown; Tori Holland, Jr., D, West Fargo; Kennedy Blair, Fr., G, Bismarck. Tournament MVP: Kennedy Blair, Bismarck Coach of the Year: Pat Johnson, West Fargo Senior Athlete of the Year: Amber Schaack, Jamestown.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org