Magicians fall to Patriots in OT

The Minot High boys hockey team had a rare opportunity to sweep the regular season series with Century on Tuesday and put the defending West Region champions in its rearview mirror.

That didn’t happen after Century’s Keaton Leininger netted the game-winning goal 1:40 into overtime as the Patriots defeated the Magicians 5-4 at Maysa Arena. Century now trails Minot by five points in the region standings, but has played two fewer games.

Leininger – Century’s leading scorer – was held in check through 51 minutes of regulation, but didn’t squander a scoring opportunity when the puck came to his stick in overtime. Century’s Alex Flicek set up the game-winning goal by cleanly winning a faceoff in Minot’s defensive zone. The puck went directly to Leininger, who rocketed a shot through traffic past MHS junior goaltender Kross Braaten.

“He’s got a knack of putting the puck away,” Century coach Troy Olson said. “The guys did a nice job on the faceoff and gave him a look.”

The Magicians (9-4-1 overall, 7-2 region) forced the extra session with two third-period goals. MHS junior defenseman Garrett Picard blasted a shot bar down to cut Century’s lead to 4-3 at 2:23 of the third period. MHS freshman defenseman Easton Bennett tied the game on the power play with 4:27 left.

“We told the guys to keep battling in the third, keep fighting until that final buzzer and see what happens and get pucks to the net,” MHS coach Chad Burckhard said. “It was a pretty good West Region hockey game.”

When the teams met for the first time this season in December, the Magicians scored the only two goals. Tuesday, the teams combined for six goals in a wild first period.

Before the Patriots (10-2, 6-1) could get their feet under them, Minot had taken a 2-0 lead. MHS senior forward Hayden Schwarz scored just 26 seconds into the game on the Magicians’ first shot. Schwarz beat Century goaltender Max Barta stick side with a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle.

The Magicians didn’t waste any time capitalizing on their first power play, either. Eight seconds into an interference call on Leininger, MHS senior forward Quinn Fuchs knocked home a loose puck in the crease to give Minot a two-goal lead only 4:38 into the game.

“We really committed to our forecheck,” MHS junior forward Brent Williams said. “We were really working hard and getting to the right places and causing turnovers and getting shots.”

It was all Century for the remaining 12:22 of the period. The Patriots reeled off four unanswered goals, including two short-handed goals in a span of 1:16. The second short-handed goal – scored by Cyril Nagurski – came with no time left on the clock.

“If you have an aggressive penalty kill like Century does, if you get thinking too much about offense on the power play it can bite you and that happened to us a couple times tonight,” Burckhard said. “Century did a nice job of pressuring the puck and didn’t give us much time in space on the power play and it cost us pretty big.”

Braaten replaced junior Breydan Effertz to start the second period. Effertz finished with 11 saves. Braaten stopped 22 shots in relief.

Minot hosts Bismarck High on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Maysa Arena.

Mike Kraft covers high school athletic and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.