Blue Jay girls hockey team 'balanced and capable' this season
The Jamestown High School girls hockey team began practices on Nov. 7 and is slated to have its first game on Nov. 28 at Aberdeen Central.
JAMESTOWN — Every year Jamestown High School head girls hockey coach Andy Fitzgerald has at least one athlete new to the game of hockey join his team.
"We have a real welcoming and positive environment in the locker room," Fitzgerald said. "The girls with more experience are more than happy to help out those new girls. In a lot of cases, they are actually the ones who kind of recruit for us and tell their friends to come and play hockey.
"The returners do a good job of also helping with the basics out on the ice and make those newer girls feel like a part of the team."
It's a sign of a program that is on the up-and-up.
The Blue Jays girls hockey team began practices on Nov. 14. The team participated in a first-ever West Region scrimmage on Nov. 19 and will officially
open up the season on Nov. 28 with a non-conference game against Aberdeen Central. The puck is scheduled to drop at 6:35 p.m. at Central's home venue.
"It's a good way for us to start our year, first with a scrimmage then with a non-conference game," Fitzgerald said. "It kind of helps build momentum and confidence toward our first league game."
The Jays are scheduled to open the season on Dec. 1 against Bismarck Century. The action is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Bismarck's Capital Ice Complex Wachter Rink.
"We had a good first week of practices," Fitzgerald said. "I feel good. We've got a good mix of returning players and some new faces and they are all off to a good start. The main thing for this first week is working hard and getting comfortable with one another."
No. 2 and 3 scorers, Bernadette Belzer and Ellie Krueger will be two of the most experienced players back on the ice for Fitzgerald.
Belzer, a senior, was the Jays second-leading scorer last season with 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 total points. Belzer's numbers had her tied for the ninth-most points acquired in the state last year. In her freshman season, Krueger scored 18 goals and dished out 12 assists for 30 points.
The Jays' leading scorer, Alexis Kirkeby, has since transferred to Warroad, Minnesota. Kirkeby recently signed her National Letter of Intent to play collegiate-level hockey at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Olivia Sorlie, now a junior, will be returning for a second season in net for the Jays. In her nearly 28 games played last season, Sorlie let by an average of 2.96 per game. Her save percentage of 90.5% had her ranked 11th in the state last season.
"She had a great year last year, it was her first year in net for us, and she's put in some work during the offseason so we're excited to see her take another step forward this year, in net," Fitzgerald said of Sorlie.
Three of the Jays' starting defensemen, Peighton Walker, Liv Frohlich and Aspen Humes, will be back helping Sorlie out on the blue line.
Mazie Ludwig, a freshman out of Valley City is slated to round out the four defensemen crew while Stella Belzer, a seventh grader is predicted to be a threat on the offensive side of the puck.
"I think we will have a pretty well-balanced team," Fitzgerald said. "With Belzer and Krueger, we know they can put the puck in the net."
Fitzgerald said Savannah Potratz has made some big steps forward while Hannah Soulis and Arya Mickelson's offensive skills will also be utilized throughout the course of the year.
Potratz, Soulis and Mickelson combined for 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 team points.
The Jays are coming off a fifth-place finish at the 2022 State Hockey Tournament and while a state tournament berth is always the goal, Fitzgerald said no expectations to be like last year's team have been put on the current squad inside Wilson Arena.
"That mainly helps with our confidence — knowing that we can do it," Fitzgerald said. "We also know last year was last year and this year is a whole new season. We know that we are capable of doing it but it all starts with hard work here at the beginning of the season."