Adam Sortland, Reagan Sortland are cousins, best friends and teammates
The two are playing in one last hockey tournament together this weekend.
JAMESTOWN — Reagan and Adam Sortland aren't your typical cousins.
"We’re actually first and second cousins," Reagan said.
But in reality, the Jamestown High School senior and junior are more like brothers.
"I think the reason Adam and I are so close starts with our dads," Reagan said. "As kids, they were always really close, so we have a strong family connection. As kids, we would go down to either Arizona or Florida in the winters with our dads’ side of the family, but we didn’t get quite as close as we are now until around my freshman year, but now if I’m doing anything, I’m probably doing it with Adam."
So really, it is pretty fitting that the boys would end their hockey careers playing alongside each other.
The Sortland cousins are a part of the JHS hockey squad that is playing in the 2023 State Boys Hockey Tournament this weekend in Grand Forks.
The Blue Jays, the No. 4 seed out of the West, fell in the opening round to the East's top-seeded Grand Forks Red River team but will match up against Minot in the first consolation semifinal game on Friday. The puck drop between the Jays and Magicians is scheduled for noon at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
"I have never played in a state high school hockey game," Adam said. "There are a lot of things I am looking forward to but most importantly, I just want to take it all in and win some games. The four-seed from the West is not generally looked at as a threat in North Dakota hockey, so this weekend is a perfect time to work hard and show the state who the Blue Jays are."
For the cousins, a weekend spent playing at the most historic barn in the state is pretty much the best way they could cap off 12 years of skating together.
"The first time I remember playing competitively with him was squirt hockey," Reagan said. "My first sports memory with Adam was stopping in New Rockford on our way to Devils Lake to grab something to eat and yelling at Adam for buying zebra cakes, but then he scored later that day and told me I couldn’t question what he ate before games anymore.
"Adam is a great player because of his drive, and because he’s smart," he said. "This season has been fun ... to see Adam take a lot of what we worked on and talked about together last year onto varsity ice."
Adam, one of the Jays' primary defensemen, has played in all 24 of the Blue Jays' games this season and has done his share of dirty work out on the ice, clearing pucks and keeping them from reaching Blue Jay goaltender Andrew Walz. The one point Adam has accumulated this season came on an assist.
Reagan is in his second year with the varsity team and has moved his way up the ladder to become one of the Jays' top-10 scorers with a pair of goals and six assists for eight total points.
"He always gives it all and he is about as selfless as they come," Adam said of Reagan. "He is always talking about what he would give up to bring a hockey or baseball state championship to Jamestown and the funny thing is I know he is not joking; he is the definition of a team-first guy. He also leads by example; he never really takes days off and he is always trying to learn how to better himself."
Since they began skating, the cousins have only played on three competitive teams together, but they still train together at the John L. from November to February. When that just isn't enough, that's when they go to the pond, which is normally fun until one of the sets of parents has to shell out a couple thousand in dental bills.
"In late January this year we had a long stretch between games, so a few of us guys decided to get together and have a pond hockey tournament," Adam said. "It was the semifinal game and we were not wearing any helmets or other protective equipment other than hockey gloves, which looking back, probably was not the best idea.
"Me and Andrew Walz had just scored and Reagan’s team was down with not a lot of time to go," he said. "He got the puck and saw one of his teammates streaking down the ice, so he tried to get the puck there in a hurry. As he shot it, I stuck my stick out to poke check it and his shot used my stick as a ramp and hit my teeth, knocking a tooth completely out and chipping two others. He felt bad right away, but I ended up being fine and the incident only kept me out one day."
"Of course, it had to be me that did it," he said.
Minus losing a couple of teeth, the boys have been having the time of their lives this winter.
"Anytime you get to play with a cousin or sibling it is a lot of fun," Adam said. "It has been incredibly fun this year though. The season has been the grind it always is but when you have someone to go through it with, especially when you are as close with them as Reagan, it makes it a whole lot of fun. It is also his last year of high school hockey so getting to share that with him means a lot."