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Ready To Roll: Blue Jay hockey hits the ice tonight

Jamestown senior defenseman Cole Bennion (11) battles for the puck with Bismarck's Issac Ohlhauser (14) last season at John L. Wilson Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Jamestown High School ended last year's boys hockey season on a sour note.

The Blue Jays were upset 3-2 by Williston in loser-out play of the West Region tournament, ending the team's campaign at 9-14. Jamestown had blanked the Coyotes in two games during the regular season by a combined score of 11-0.

"It was a pretty tough pill to swallow for sure, and I know a lot of the guys feel the same way," Jamestown boys hockey coach Matt Stockert said. "Hopefully they use that feeling to motivate them here at the start of the season, and throughout the season into February, so we have that opportunity to get to the state hockey tournament this year."

The puck drops tonight in Grafton for the Blue Jays, as they'll be attempting to bring a four-year state tournament drought to a close this winter. Jamestown returns eight seniors, including a pair of all-state performers, who'll be asked to do the bulk of the heavy lifting.

Senior Matthew Schneider was in goal for all 23 games last season. He was one of four goalies named all-state after racking up 679 saves with a save percentage 89.3.

The 6-foot-5 defenseman Connor Fuchs was also selected all-state as a junior after tying for third in Blue Jay scoring with five goals and 13 assists. He'll be complemented by senior blueliners Cole Bennion and Baylee Hatlewick.

Jamestown lost 67 points (37 goals) off last year's squad with the graduation of 10 seniors. But the Blue Jays are returning six men who tallied at least five points, including three of its top four point getters.

Senior forward Devin Hofmann finished tied with the team lead in goals scored with 11 in 2016-17, while senior forward Leo Halko lit the lamp eight times and notched 10 helpers. Senior forwards Bryce Nelson (11 points) and Parker Stockert (9) will also be relied on in the Blue Jays' offensive zone this season.

The returning group helped Jamestown break a decade-long losing streak (22 games) to Bismarck Century when the Jays got past the Patriots 5-4 last February in Bismarck.

"I think we'd be foolish not to look at those guys for leadership," coach Stockert said. "They've been through all the ups and all the downs, and we're going to need all eight of them contributing the way we need them to."

Jamestown is kicking off its eighth season in a row against Grafton-Park River, which has a new coach this season in Scott Robideaux. The Blue Jays were 0-6 against the Spoilers (4-19 '16-'17) in season openers until they defeated them 6-2 at John L. Wilson Arena last November.

"We're just worried about ourselves right now," Stockert said. "We want to make sure we take care of the puck on our own end and do the right things with it in the offensive zone and bury the biscuit when we have opportunites.

"I think things will go well for us if we do those two things."

Jamestown finished fifth in the West Region regular season standings last year at 8-8. Stockert said Bismarck Century could find itself at the top of the West this season with the Blue Jays and a handful of others battling 2-6.

Bismarck High went 21-5 overall last winter and is the defending West Region regular season and tournament champions. The Demons lost 7-2 in the state championship game to Grand Forks Central, which finished the season at a perfect 27-0.

Jamestown opens with four games on the road. The Jays' first home game is slated for Dec. 7 against Bismarck.

"Competition-wise there will be some parity in the West Region which is always fun," Stockert said. "We're looking forward to another year of Blue Jay hockey, for sure."

Blue Jays at Fargo N/S/S

First-year head coach Andy Fitzgerald and the Blue Jay girls hockey team open the season tonight at Fargo North/South/Shanley

Jamestown will be looking to improve on last year's 4-18-1 campaign. The Blue Jays open with seven games on the road with the team's first home game scheduled for Dec. 19 against Aberdeen.

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