Blue Jays open first state tournament in eight years Tuesday
The JHS girls hockey team is facing top-seeded Fargo North/South in the first round of the 2021 state tournament Tuesday in Fargo.
Ella Roaldson had to stop and think how long she's been playing hockey.
After asking Jamestown High School girls head hockey coach Andy Fitzgerald and her father, JHS Activities Director Jim Roaldson, and recalling early memories the senior deduced that she's spent 12 years on the ice.
"I started when I was six," Roaldson said in an interview after the Blue Jays 3-2 loss to Devils Lake Feb. 16. "The time has gone by so fast. I know that sometimes during freshman and sophomore year I couldn't wait to get out of here and be on my own and stuff. But now that the time has come, I am going to miss it."
Roaldson isn't going to leave the Blue Jays just yet though.
The Blue Jays qualified for their first state tournament since 2013. The Blue Jays secured the No. 8 seed heading into the state tournament with an 8-1 over Dickinson on Feb. 12. The Blue Jays are slated to play top-seeded Fargo North/South Tuesday in the opening round of the tournament at 7:30 p.m.
"I am just excited because this has been the team goal since I was in eighth grade," Roaldson said.
Since being named to the varsity squad as an eighth-grader back in 2016-17, Roaldson has been at the top of the Blue Jay scoring charts leading the Blue Jays in scoring her freshman through senior years. Roaldson was just one point behind lead-scorer Haley Hillstrom her first year with the squad.
It will be a stat Roaldson will be looking to add to before she hangs up her Blue Jay jersey for the last time.
"There'll probably be some extra butterflies and nervousness compared to a regular-season game, but we're excited to get out there and compete against Fargo North/South," Fitzgerald said. "January 18, they beat us 9-3 but the first period was a very close period so we know that we've done it.
"That can give us confidence going in and we'll just have to put together three consistent periods to have a chance and we need to keep the score low."
Fargo North/South has two of the top-four scorers in the state at their disposal in Rylee Bartz and Abby Promersberger. Bartz is leading the state with 36 goals and 12 assists for 48 points, while Promersberger is in the No. 4 spot with 36 points. Fitzgerald said for the Blue Jays to have a chance at beating out the No. 1 team they have to focus on the dynamic duo and keep them out of the back of the net.
To be in a position where he has to make a game plan for the state tournament game is a new experience for Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald took over the Blue Jay hockey program in 2017. The Blue Jays did not win a league game the new head coach's first season.
"It's been very rewarding as a coach to see all of the hard work and dedication that they've put into our program and the improvement that has come with that along the way," Fitzgerald said. "Two years ago we were a shootout away from making the state tournament. To get that close and not make it - really hurt and motivated us at the same time."
Roaldson and fellow seniors Kaycee Johnson, Kendra Paiment, Erika Anderson and Sydney Mittleider were only sophomores when the shootout loss to Devils Lake abruptly ended their season. Two years later, the seniors had no intentions of leaving another season unfinished.
"It's awesome," Johnson said in a prior interview regarding the state tourney. "We've been so close the last two years and finally being able to get past that hump and make it is just absolutely fantastic. It's such an amazing group of girls. They earned it, they deserve it and I am just so excited to see what they do in the future."
The future Blue Jays will lose the five seniors in May to graduation but the Blue Jays welcomed a crop of 11 newcomers to start the year. Fitzgerald said the 11 varsity newbies have great potential to lead future Blue Jay teams.
But for right now it's time for the 2020-21 squad to make some noise for the first time in eight years.
"To watch them come together and bond over the course of the season has been really good to see," Fitzgerald said of his team. "There's a lot of things I am proud about. We like the result of making it to the state tournament but that doesn't come without the day-in and day-out hard work they put in every day at practice."