Back-to-back: Fargo North-South repeats as North Dakota girls hockey state champions
Kate McComb's fifth goal of the season came at 12:23 of the second period on the power play and ultimately held up as the game-winner for the Spruins on Saturday.
MINOT — The Fargo North-South Spruins are state champions once again.
After claiming its first state title as a co-op in 2022, North-South ran it back this season, topping Fargo Davies 2-0 at the Maysa Arena on Saturday to repeat as North Dakota girls hockey state champions.
Kate McComb recorded the game-winning goal at the 12:23 mark of the second period, and goaltender Savannah Wuitschick locked it down from there, fending off 20 Davies shots for her third shutout of the season.
Wuitschick earned tournament MVP honors after the senior allowed just two goals in three games and finished the weekend with a .963 save percentage.
“It’s nice when the shutouts come at the right times,” Wuitschick said after her goose egg. “It took a lot of work to get here, but I’m glad it came.”
The top-seeded Eagles didn’t make the path to victory easy for the second-ranked Spruins. After North-South’s Kenleigh Fischer was whistled for a crosscheck with 1:22 remaining in the third period, Davies held a 6-on-4 advantage with goaltender Noelle Lewis pulled in an attempt at the late equalizer.
The Eagles had a flurry of chances on the power play opportunity, but Wuitschick made a series of stellar saves to keep them off the scoreboard.
“It was pretty crazy out there,” Wuitschick said. “I couldn’t have done it without my defense who were doing great things blocking shots. It was kind of scary, but they did a good job.”
With just under one minute to play and the Eagles still pressuring, Anna Nelson got a hold of the puck and sent it the length of the ice into the Davies’ empty net to make it 2-0 with 52 seconds to play.
McComb was the unsung hero of the night, wristing a shot from the right circle on the power play in the second period that beat Lewis glove-side to give North-South the lead with her fifth goal of the season.
“Someone had to do it, and I was just so happy that we could get that into the back of the net,” McComb said.
The Spruins were fortunate to have McComb out there to score the goal, as the sophomore was dealing with skate issues moments prior.
“I lost an edge on my left skate,” McComb said. “I tried resharpening it in our locker room, but that didn’t work. So my dad came in clutch and resharpened them for me and I went out and scored. That was pretty cool.”
North-South head coach Parker Metz described the skate issues as an incredible feat.
“It was incredible,” Metz said. “(McComb) was dealing with skate issues for about seven minutes in the second period, and I had to yell up to the parents that she needed her skates sharpened. The stone that we had wasn’t working and one of the parents came down, grabbed her skates and got them buzzed quick.
“She puts her skates on, it’s her first shift out, she gets the puck on her forehand, she finally shoots the puck towards the net and it goes in the back of the net. It was an incredible feat to see that whole thing play out. I couldn’t be more happy for her.”
Eagles head coach Josh Issertell said the difference in the game was one shot and a strong goalie in the other crease.
“It’s a one-shot game,” Issertell said. “We had our chances and they got one on the third power play goal we’ve allowed all season and that was the difference.
“The puck is laying there in the crease. A couple of bounces that Wuitschick made two or three 10-bell saves and we can’t buy one.”
Metz credited his team’s ability to play well in front of Wuitschick and clog lanes.
“They have to understand the situation that they’re in,” Metz said. “This last half of the season, we’ve understood how to play a stellar net-front presence and they did that. We were blocking shots, getting in lanes, taking pass lanes away, jumping on loose pucks — Davies had a really good chance there and Savannah Wuitschick made a save, and it was like, ‘Yep, we earned that one. We’re going.’ So that was awesome.”
Final shots were 20-19 in favor of the Eagles. Lewis set aside 18 Spruins shots in defeat.
The Spruins finished 1-for-3 on the power play while Davies was 0-for-3.
Nelson and Becca Mathison added assists on McComb’s second-period goal.
Davies finished its with a record of 22-4-0. The Spruins capped their title run with a 20-4-2 mark.
Wuitschick, Fischer and Nelson were named to the All-Tournament team along with Davies’ Mathilde Vetter and Taylor Severson and Minot’s Taylyn Cope. Mandan’s Ben Hertz was voted Coach of the Year.
McComb said it felt amazing to end the season on top after several roster changes in the offseason had people doubting the Spruins.
“I think it proves that we’re more than just a one-player team like everyone was saying last year,” McComb said. “I think it proves how much we’ve improved over the last year because we lost (the Shanley co-op) and a few others, so I think it’s really cool that we got to win this and pull it off.”
FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.
SECOND PERIOD: 1, NS, McComb (Nelson, Mathison), 12:23.
THIRD PERIOD: 2, NS, Nelson (unassisted), 16:08.
SAVES: NS, Wuitschick 6-3-11—20. FD, Lewis 6-5-7—18.
THIRD-PLACE GAME: Minot 4, Bismarck Legacy 1
FIFTH-PLACE GAME: Bismarck Century 3, Grand Forks 1