Fitzgerald, Jays set to match up against Bismarck Thursday
The Jamestown High School girls hockey team is heading to the 2022 State Tournament on Thursday.
Last February, Andy Fitzgerald and the Jamestown girls hockey team loaded up the buses and drove over to Fargo for their first state tournament experience since 2013.
About four hours later, they drove back, defeated and done for the year.
This season, the Jays are in for a treat.
"We get a real state tournament experience this year," Fitzgerald said. "We talked as a team heading into February that we want to be playing our best hockey heading into the state tournament week and we believe that we are there."
Fitzgerald and the No. 7-seeded Blue Jays will kick off their three days in Fargo on Thursday with a matchup against Bismarck at 5 p.m. at Farmers Union Insurance Center. The Jays finished the regular season at 8-12 and 10-12 overall.
Fargo Davies claimed the No. 1 seed and will kick off the tournament against eighth-seeded Grand Forks on Thursday at 11 a..m.
Bismarck beat the Jays 2-1 on Dec. 9 in Bismarck and then lost to the Blizzard in a 3-2 shootout during Hockey Day North Dakota on Jan. 22. Fitzgerald said matching up against a West Region rival gives the team a little bit more confidence knowing that they have skated with the Blizzard twice. The head coach said he thinks the Blue Jays will match up well against the Blizzard.
"We are going to work hard and be difficult to play against," Fitzgerald said. "We want to put a lot of pressure on Bismarck, especially early in the game. Those first five minutes are going to be key for us."
Since the state tournament began back in 2003, Bismarck has made an appearance at every state tournament. Of the 19 state tournament appearances, the Blizzard has taken home nine state titles.
Jamestown had a strong run in the early 2000s taking the ice at eight tournaments between the years of 2003 and 2013. The 2020-21 squad broke the eight-year drought. Jamestown has never made an appearance in the state title game.
"Bismarck obviously has a long history of experience in the state tournament and for us, we're still relatively new to this so we just need to work hard and play our game right off of the bat," Fitzgerald said.
While the Blizzard has appeared in 12 state title games, every team has a weakness. The Blizzard's most vulnerable point is their penalty minutes, which are currently sitting at 204 minutes spent in the box.
The Blue Jays are one of the least penalized teams with 108 total minutes. Jamestown has six athletes who haven't recorded a minor penalty yet this season. Fitzgerald said the lack of penalties his group has calculated will be a key factor headed into the quarterfinals.
"We'll be working on our powerplay and getting our heads up and finding who's open," Fitzgerald said. "If we can be on the man-advantage more than they are that is going to be key for us."
If three players, in particular, can capitalize on the powerplay and stay out of the box, it will be the Jays in pretty good shape for a battle against the Blizzard.
Alexis Kirkeby, Bernadette Belzer and Ellie Krueger were named to the All-WDA team on Sunday. Kirkeby was the top scorer in the state coming back from the Christmas break with 14 goals, seven assists for 21 total points.
Since hitting the ice in the new year, Kirkeby has tabulated 11 more goals and 10 assists for 42 total points. The junior is the No. 3 point-getter in the state.
Belzer and Krueger have combined for 59 team points. Belzer and Krueger are ranked in the top 20 in total scoring.
"It's exciting for those three," Fitzgerald said of the honor. "They work hard all year long and they are definitely deserving of being on the All-WDA team. They are among the top scorers in the conference. If you watch our games you can tell that those three stand out and are among the best players on the ice in any game we played this year."
Krueger, Belzer and Kirkeby aren't the only ones contributing to the Jays' success on the ice.
The Jamestown High School boys hockey team was crowned WDA tournament champions on Feb. 19. Matt Stockert and the squad went 20-4 overall and have gone 16-1 in their last 17 games.
"We're glad that the boys' team also made it after an awesome season," Fitzgerald said. "They're a really fun team to watch so our girls watch them any time they get. We're definitely big fans of the boys' team.
"You can learn things watching a good team like that so maybe some of their play will cross over to what we are doing."
2022 All-WDA team
Bernadette Belzer, Jamestown
Ellie Krueger, Jamestown
Mikayla Fleck, Mandan
Madison Hertz, Mandan
Abigail Tallman, Minot
Taylyn Cope, Minot
Payton Lang, Minot
Brenna Curl, Bismarck
Cameron Schmidt, Bismarck
Alexis Kirkeby, Jamestown
Ellie McElvaney, Mandan
Emily Thiele, Minot
Ella Gabel, Bismarck
Jayli Wandler, Mandan
Jillian Ackerman, Minot
2022 STATE TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
G1: (1) Fargo Davies vs. (8) Grand Forks, 11 a.m.
G2: (4) West Fargo vs. (5) Mandan, 1:15 p.m.
G3: (2) Bismarck vs. (7) Jamestown, 5 p.m.
G4: (3) Fargo North/South vs. (6) Minot, 7:15 p.m.
G5: Loser G1 vs. Loser G2, 5 p.m.
G6: Loser G3 vs. Loser G4, 7:15 p.m.
G7: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2, noon.
G8: Winner G3 vs. Winner G4, 2:15 p.m.
Seventh place: Loser G5 vs. Loser G6.
Fifth place: Winner G5 vs. Winner G6, 2:15 p.m.
Third place: Loser G7 vs. Loser G8, 11 a.m.
Championship: Winner G7 vs. Winner G8, 4:45 p.m.