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Two early second-period goals help propel North-South to state semifinals

Rylee Bartz found the back of the net just over 2 minutes into the second before Rebecca Mathison added another just 25 seconds later, and Fargo North-South carried that momentum the rest of the way

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Fargo North-South's Rylee Bartz closes in to score on Minot’s Jillian Ackerman during their North Dakota state girls hockey tournament quarterfinal game Thursday, February 24, 2022, at Farmers Union Insurance Center, Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

FARGO — Fargo North-South's quest to return to the North Dakota girls hockey state championship game got off to a strong start Thursday night with a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Minot at the Farmers Union Insurance Center inside Scheels Arena.

The second period did the trick for the Spruins, scoring the first goal of the contest just over two minutes into the frame and adding another 25 seconds later.

With the win, No. 3 seed North-South improved to 18-6 on the season and will now face No. 2 seed Bismarck in the semifinals. Puck drop is set to occur 30 minutes after the conclusion of the West Fargo United-Fargo Davies girls semifinal set for noon at Scheels Arena.

No. 6 seed Minot fell to 13-10 overall.

North-South head coach Parker Metz said escaping the first period with a scoreless tie was critical in building momentum for the next period.

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"The state tournament is fun," he said. "You've got amped energy going into it and everyone's kind of nervous. Getting through that first period is a plus, 0-0, we'll take that. That's what anyone would want and that's where we kind of have to build momentum. You get that feel for the crowd, feel for the ice, feel for the atmosphere and just kind of go back to sticking to what we do and sticking to our process throughout the year."

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Fargo North-South-Shanley's Rylee Bartz advances against Minot’s Marissa Votava during their North Dakota North Dakota state girls hockey tournament quarterfinal game Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, at Farmers Union Insurance Center, Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

Junior forward Rylee Bartz notched the first Spruins goal at 2 minutes, 3 seconds of the second period, a power-play tally assisted by senior forward Evelyn Olson. Bartz put home a rebound by Majettes sophomore goaltender Jillian Ackerman for the 1-0 lead and state-leading 59th goal of the season.

North-South found net again just 25 seconds later when junior forward Rebecca Mathison busted up the right wing and fired a shot unassisted past Ackerman to put the Spruins up 2-0.

The Spruins held an 11-6 shots advantage after the first period and outshot Minot 27-14 after two frames.

Bartz wasn't done after her first goal, adding three more in the third to seal the deal.

Bartz's first third-period goal was a wrister that beat Ackerman blocker side on an assist from senior defenseman Madelyn Rohrich. That was Bartz's 60th goal this season, a North Dakota girls state record.

Just minutes later, Bartz scored again on a shorthanded breakaway at 3:55. A little more than a minute after that, she tacked on another shorthanded goal for her fourth of the night, this one coming on a 5-on-3 Spruins disadvantage.

Bartz said the record-breaking goal wasn't done on her own.

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"That was awesome, but I couldn't have done it without my coach's help and my teammates' help," she said.

Bartz said being such a scoring threat is about hard work and trust in those around her.

"It's just practice in the on-season and offseason," she said. "And just putting trust in my teammates."

Final shots were 39-20 in favor of North-South. Spruins junior goaltender Savannah Wuitschick pitched a 20-save shutout, while Ackerman set aside 34 saves for the Majettes.

North-South finished 1 for 3 on the power play, while Minot finished 0 for 5, giving up two shorthanded goals from Bartz in the process.

Three Spruins penalties came in the third period, something Metz would like to see cleaned up. On the flip side, the penalty kill unit stood tall.

"Those are a couple of selfish penalties we took there," he said. "That's not our game. We play much better 5-on-5. We'll kill penalties if we have to, but those back-to-back-to-back there was not acceptable on our behalf."

Regarding preparation for Bismarck, Metz kept it short and to the point.

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"Try to emulate (Thursday) and amp it up one more step," he said.

Bartz echoed that sentiment.

"We just need to stick to our game plan," she said.

FIRST PERIOD: No scoring plays.

SECOND PERIOD: 1, FNS, Bartz (E. Olson), 2:03. 2, FNS, Mathison (unassisted), 2:28.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, FNS, Bartz (Rohrich), 1:03. 4, FNS, Bartz (unassisted), 3:55. 5, Bartz (unassisted), 5:27.

SAVES: MIN, Ackerman 11-14-9—34. FNS, Wuitschick 6-8-6—20.

Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.
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