North-South rolls over Bismarck to earn berth in state title game for 2nd straight year
Rylee Bartz records second hat trick in as many days to lead Spruins attack
FARGO — Amp up the energy. That was the message from Fargo North-South head coach Parker Metz to his team after its quarterfinal victory over Minot in the North Dakota state girls hockey tournament on Thursday.
In the Spruins' semifinal contest against Bismarck on Friday at Scheels Arena, it appeared that the message from coach to players was received.
North-South climbed out of an early deficit to roll past Bismarck 5-1, earning a spot in the state championship game for the second year in a row and the fourth time in five years.
The No. 3 seed Spruins will face No. 1 seed Fargo Davies (24-1) in a rematch of the 2021 title game, which the Eagles claimed 3-2 for their first championship in program history.
Junior forward Rylee Bartz recorded her second hat trick in as many days to lead the Spruins attack, while junior forward Lindsey Astrup and senior defenseman Molly Hanson chipped in two more goals to send their team to the state championship in convincing fashion.
"The energy was out of the world (Friday)," Metz said. "That locker room was insanely loud and the girls were rocking."
The Spruins improved their record to 19-6 on the season, while the No. 2 seed Blizzard fell to 18-6 and will play in the third-place game against West Fargo United (15-9-1) with puck drop slated for 11 a.m. Saturday at Scheels Arena.
Senior forward Cameron Schmidt put Bismarck on the board just over six minutes into the first period, a power-play strike assisted by sophomore forward Brenna Curl.
Just over six minutes later, Bartz found the back of the net for her first of the game at 12:48, with the assist coming from sophomore forward Anna Nelson. Two minutes after that, she did it again, this time an unassisted tally on the penalty kill. It was Bartz's third shorthanded goal of the tournament, scoring two in the quarterfinal contest, as well.
Bartz assisted on Astrup's goal at 8:27 of the second frame, which eventually gave North-South a 3-1 lead entering the third.
Bartz wasted little time finding the net again in the third, scoring the hat trick goal at 3:40 for her record 65th goal of the year. This time it was freshman forward Olivia Kalbus with the assist.
Bartz said there was no panic when she and her teammates found themselves in the early 1-0 hole.
"We just had to stick to our game plan," she said. "Stick to what our coaches are telling us and work together as a team."
Bartz added that despite the first goal coming off of her stick, climbing back was a team effort.
"It was awesome, but it takes a whole team to do it," she said. "It's not just one player. Our team sticks together and sticks to what our coaches are teaching us."
If there were any doubts North-South would hang on, Hanson quickly erased them, scoring at 8:42 of the third on an assist from junior forward Julia Puhl to make it 5-1.
The Spruins outshot the Blizzard 28-18. North-South junior goaltender Savannah Wuitshick made 17 saves. Bismarck freshman goaltender Kambree Grabar stopped 23 shots.
North-South finished 0 for 3 on the power play, while Bismarck went 1 for 4.
Davies took both regular season tilts from the Spruins by scores of 4-1 and 4-2. Bartz, however, said they'll be ready.
"It should be a fun game," she said. "Davies is a crosstown rival. We've just got to play our game and keep up the energy."
FIRST PERIOD: 1, BIS, Schmidt (Curl), 6:18. 2, FNS, Bartz (Nelson), 12:48. 3, FNS, Bartz (unassisted), 14:49.
SECOND PERIOD: 4, FNS, Astrup (Bartz), 8:27.
THIRD PERIOD: 5, FNS, Bartz (Kalbus), 3:40. 6, FNS, Hanson (Puhl), 8:42.
SAVES: FNS, Wuitshick 8-3-6—17. BIS, Grabar 10-6-7—23.