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BREAKTHROUGH: Blue Jays top Midgets in West Region opener

Jamestown's Cole Bennion (11) moves the puck as Devin Hofmann looks on during Blue Jay boys hockey action earlier this season at John L. Wilson Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Blue Jay boys hockey put four years of opening-round West Region tournament frustration to bed Thursday in Minot.

Jamestown scored two third-period goals in a span of 1 minute, 16 seconds to top Dickinson 4-3 in the regional quarterfinals at Maysa Arena. It was the first opening-round win for the Blue Jays at the West Region tournament since defeating Bottineau-Rugby 9-7 in 2013—the last time Jamestown qualified for the state tournament.

The Jays (12-9) face top-seeded Bismarck Century (18-4) in tomorrow's semifinals at 5 p.m. The Patriots dismantled Williston 15-1 Thursday and hold victories of 8-2 and 8-1 over the Blue Jays this season.

"Drop the puck and anything can happen," Jamestown coach Matt Stockert said. "We'll just try to strap them on tight and see what happens."

The Blue Jays led 2-0 after the opening period against Dickinson behind a Parker Stockert power-play goal and a penalty shot buried to the back of the net by eighth-grader Alex Senf in the final 4 seconds. Senf went backhand to beat Dickinson junior goalie Riley Wittenberg top shelf after sophomore defenseman Jaren Hugelen was called for a slash on Senf on a breakaway to set up the penalty shot.

But Jamestown lost senior defenseman Cole Bennion to injury in the opening period, and Dickinson fought back to tie the score at 2-2 after two frames. The Midgets outshot the Jays 14-8 in the second, while the Blue Jays mustered just one quality-scoring opportunity after finding seven in the opening 17 minutes.

"I thought nerves were there for all of us in that second period," coach Stockert said. "We tried to play defense a little too much and not go after pucks. But we got that out of our system in the later part of the second period, and the third period was all about who wanted it more."

Dickinson's Joseph Pavek scored nearly 3 minutes into the third, briefly putting the Midgets out front. But Blue Jay senior Devin Hofmann netted a power-play goal, which was followed by a second tally by Senf barely a minute later, and Jamestown would stand tall over the remaining 7:25 to hang on for the win.

Hofmann (34 points) and Senf (28) sit 1-2, respectively, for the Jays in scoring this season. Senf is inside the state's top 20 point getters as a middle-schooler.

"We found a way to put the puck away on the power play today," Stockert said. "Hats off to the kids. The kids we asked to go out there and put in 51 (minutes) put in 51.

Dickinson ended up outshooting Jamestown 42-34. Jamestown's all-state senior goalie Matthew Schneider netted 39 saves.

"I felt today was a pretty good day for the Blue Jays," said Stockert, whose Jays now stand one win away from a state tournament berth. "I know we got eight seniors in there, but a lot of young kids in that room are taking it all in and getting a good feeling for what just happened here."

Jamestown 4, Dickinson 3

JHS 2 0 2 -- 4

DHS 0 2 1 -- 3

Scoring

First period

1. J, Parker Stockert (Connor Fuchs), 12:15 PP; 2. J, Alex Senf (unassisted), 16:56 PS.

Second period

3. D, Brayden Groll (Ryan Bren), 6:48 PP; 4. D, Cody Shepard (Morgan Wardner), 15:35.

Third period

5. D, Joseph Pavek (Unassisted), 2:55; 6. J, Devin Hofmann (Fuchs), 8:19 PP; 7. J, Senf (unassisted), 9:35.

Goalie: J, Matthew Schneider 15-12-12--39. D, Riley Wittenberg 13-8-9--30.

Penalties: J, 4 for 6 minutes. D, 5 for 8 minutes

Records: Jamestown 12-9-0. Dickinson 10-11-0.

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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