FARGO — Two three-goal periods and a strong penalty kill lifted No. 2 seed Bismarck to a 6-2 quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Mandan Thursday night in the North Dakota girls state hockey tournament at Scheels Arena.
"I kind of anticipated this, I think everybody did. The games are going to be tight," Bismarck head coach Tim Meyer said. "I don't really think the score is super reflective of the game; I mean it was a one-goal game until the last five minutes. Anybody can win at the state tournament. There's a lot of parity across the state right now."
After a scoreless first period, a second-period onslaught helped fuel the Bismarck bench.
"We didn't really feel like we were playing the best we could," Meyer said. "There's a fair amount of nerves when you're at the state tournament."
Meyer said the five-time reigning state champs still get nervous.
"It's just human nature. The other part is, that was last year," he said. "It's not this year. It's a different group of kids."
Senior forward Riley Ball, the second-leading scorer in the state, netted a hat trick to also help Bismarck stay alive in the championship bracket.
"When you're in those moments where it's tough, things aren't coming easy, you need kids to step up," Meyer said. "That's exactly what Riley Ball did today."
It took Ball just over a minute to score on her backhand in the second frame from a Jayda Krikorian pass at the hash marks that trickled through the five-hole.
"I felt like once we got one goal, we'd get a couple more and it'd just start flowing, and it kinda just did," Ball said. "We all played as a team and we played well. Hopefully we can continue that."
After Ball got the monkey off the back, Mandan's Ana Ross went top shelf from the top-right circle to even it up less than two minutes later. Ball responded with another goal in 23 seconds.
"Once they get one, you want to get it even more," Ball said. "It pushes you a little bit more and you want to keep pounding them."
The second-period onslaught continued, with Anika Butts scoring through the five-hole from the slot to make it 3-1 entering the third.
Bismarck (18-5-1) advanced to play in the semifinals at 2:15 p.m. Friday. Mandan (10-13) will play in the consolation semis at 7:15 p.m. Friday.
"We're feeling pretty good, feeling pretty confident," Ball said. "Hopefully we can continue our confidence over the next couple games and do something at the end."
Riding the offensive high, Bismarck fought off all four of its second-period penalties, including a 5-on-3.
Down by two with four minutes to go in the third, a Maci Berg shot from the top of the left circle sailed into the net over Bismarck goalie Lauren Watkins' shoulder.
Greta Tschider answered 30 seconds later to help Bismarck grab a 4-2 lead. Ball completed the hat trick with 18.9 seconds left in the game. Anna German sealed the quarterfinal envelope for Bismarck, finding the back of the net with 0.4 seconds left on a Madison Brown pass, her third assist of the night.
FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.
SECOND PERIOD: 1, B, Ball (Krikorian), 1:12. 2, M, Ross (Mehlhoff), 2:55. 3, B, Ball (Brown), 3:18. 4, B, Butts (Hanson), 14:39.
THIRD PERIOD: 5, M, Berg (Mehlhoff), 13:06. 6, B, Tschider (Cole), 13:37. 7, B, Ball (Brown), 16:42. 8, B, German (Brown), 16:59.
SAVES: Sheetz 13-12-15—40. Watkins 7-4-7—18.