FARGO — Just as Fargo Davies head coach Josh Issertell predicted, the opening round of the North Dakota girls hockey state tournament was tight.
The top-seeded Eagles tilted the ice after a scoreless first period to churn out a 3-1 quarterfinal win over No. 8 seed West Fargo United at Farmers Union Insurance Center at Scheels Arena.
"We accomplished our goal for Thursday, and that was to play as a group, play as a team and find a way to win," Issertell said. "We felt we could take advantage of the long change in the second period to keep pucks deep in their end, tilt the ice a little bit and hopefully wear them down. In the third period we just wanted to give a consistent effort and force them to play 200 feet."
Davies (21-0-3) knocked United out of championship play to remain unbeaten on the season and advanced to Friday's noon semifinal game against fourth-seeded Devils Lake (15-8-1). United (8-15) will play No. 5 seed Grand Forks (11-11-2) in the consolation semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday.
It didn't look like the top seed was facing the bottom seed Thursday.
"They have a great goaltender," Issertell said. "They play extremely hard, they're physical. We anticipated a tight game."
If the transition-heavy first period was a battle of the neutral zone, West Fargo won the fight. United had success getting past the solid Davies defensive core.
The Eagles fired off tricky shots in the final minutes of the period, but United goalie Madelyn Buchert stopped all of the rebound, odd-man rush and wraparound attempts.
After almost 22 minutes of scoreless action, Faith Morris scored 12 seconds into a United penalty on a slap shot from the point that sailed right to the back of the net.
"It felt pretty great. It was kind of an up-tempo move so I feel like it got the team started and in a good position," Morris said. "I saw an open shot, and I thought I might as well take it."
Down by one with just under four minutes left, United defenseman Jocelyn Hareland got on a breakaway but the puck drifted right into Davies goalie Kennedy Cook's stomach.
Trying to tally her 32nd point of the year, Morris broke loose on a breakaway in the closing second of the period as the clock expired. Luckily, she did just that early in the second period with an assist on Olivia Opheim's goal.
"Josie (Froslie) brought it in hard off the wall all the way down, dumped it in and got off," Morris said. "I took it off the wall and found Opheim in the slot and passed it to her. Good finish."
Hareland responded 27 seconds later on a rebound to cut Davies' lead to 2-1, but it wasn't enough. Davies again answered, stretching its lead on a Kaia Johnson goal.
"I feel like our team is more confident now going into the second game," Morris said.
The Eagles successfully killed their third of three penalties 30 seconds later.
"We've got kids who (special teams) is their role," Issertell said. "We've really challenged them to appreciate and understand that role and how important it is for the team. Those kids went out there and executed."
FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.
SECOND PERIOD: 1, FD, Morris (Kracke, Hanson), 4:44.
THIRD PERIOD: 2, FD, Opheim (Sauvageau, Morris), 6:35. 3, WF, J. Hareland (Nowacki, M. Hareland), 7:02. 4, FD, Johnson (Opheim), 10:15.
SAVES: WF, Buchert 11-11-3—25. FD, Cook 6-5-5—16.