FARGO — Minot and Bismarck were equally hungry opponents entering the North Dakota girls state hockey semifinal Friday at Scheels Arena. That grit showed as the No. 2 seed Blizzard narrowly edged the No. 6 Majettes 4-3 to earn their eighth straight state title game appearance.
The Majettes weren't going to give up their first semifinal matchup since 2006 easily.
Down by three, the Majettes took advantage of a couple goalie pulls to pop in two goals in the game's final minutes and fuel hopes of a comeback in front of an excited crowd.
"Minot is a good hockey team, and they're playing their best hockey right now at this time," Bismarck head coach Tim Meyer said. "Strong goaltending, making it tough on opponents, and they had a 'never give up' attitude."
Abby Tallman scored the first of Minot's two goals with 3 minutes, 29 seconds to go. Two minutes later, Taylyn Cope got a shot off from the bottom of the left circle, with the puck barely finding its way past the goal line.
"When they had to review that second goal, it was a nice opportunity for us to get a timeout without using our own and calm the bench down,'" Meyer said.
Minot (12-10-2) struck first 25 seconds into the game as O'Malley Eslinger went top shelf to get past Bismarck goalie Karsyn Hellman. The Blizzard responded less than two minutes later on a Jayda Krikorian power-play goal.
"I was super excited," Krikorian said. "We wanted to come back and come out fast after that first goal."
Bismarck (19-5-1) faces top-seeded Fargo Davies (22-0-3) in Saturday's 4:30 p.m. championship at Scheels Arena for its chance at grabbing a sixth consecutive state title.
"It means the world to me to especially play with these seniors," Krikorian said on the championship. "It's kind of our last group of seniors going in that have been part of this huge thing. I just want to win it for them."
Bismarck flexed its penalty kill in the seven-penalty (four on Bismarck) first period, racking up a 100% success rate on the PK, which featured a couple 5-on-3s. Meyer said penalties have been a problem for Bismarck all weekend.
"We've tried to address it. It's one of those where we're trying to play hard, play fast and physical, but we've gotta find a way to stay out of the box tomorrow," he said.
After being outshot 8-6 in the first, Bismarck bombarded Minot goalie Amber Borkhuis, more than doubling its amount of shots in the second frame (13).
Bismarck grabbed a 3-1 lead in the second period, thanks to Madison Brown, who got past some Majettes at the bottom-left circle to find the back of the net, and Anna German, whose shot from the point sailed past Borkhuis.
Greta Tschider gave Bismarck a seemingly comfortable three-goal lead with just under 11 minutes to go in the third.
"This is another big one just for the alumni, the kids that have come through and the way they've established this program," Meyer said. "That's what we want to continue to do, live on with that legacy that was created before us."
FIRST PERIOD: 1, M, Eslinger (Tallman), 0:25. 2, B, Krikorian (Ball), 2:05.
SECOND PERIOD: 3, B, Brown (Gabel), 3:13. 4, B, German (Schmidt), 14:43.
THIRD PERIOD: 5, B, Tschider, 6:03. 6, M, Tallman (Eslinger), 13:31. 7, M, Cope, 15:35.
SAVES: Hellman 7-6-7—20. Borkhuis 5-11-11—27.