Magicians finish strong

GRAND FORKS It’s been a long time since the Minot High boys hockey team participated in the state tournament third-place game.

That’s why although it wasn’t the state title they were hoping for the Magicians were happy to match the fourth-best finish in program history with a 4-2 victory over West Fargo on Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

“It’s good to come back and win this game,” Minot coach Chad Burckhard said. “We still have the disappointment of the semifinal loss. We didn’t come here to take third, but it was nice to come out and play well enough to get the win.”

Minot finished third in 1987 and 1990, second in 1985 and 1989 and first in 1992 the last time it had won an opening-round game prior to Thursday.

Minot sophomore forward Logan Bischof netted the game-winning goal with 4:38 left on a nice pass from junior forward Matt Flom. Bischof received the puck in front of the net from Flom at the right faceoff circle and the sophomore knocked the puck past West Fargo goaltender Bailey Vareberg for a 3-2 lead.

“Flom just found me in the slot and I put it home. It was pretty lucky, I guess,” Bischof said. “It felt good. We wanted to win this game for the seniors.”

After being stymied by Grand Forks Central’s stingy defense much of the night before, Minot found its scoring touch early against the Packers. The Magicians doubled its scoring output from Friday in just 12:34 on Saturday.

Minot senior forward Daylen Benjamin tallied an empty-net goal with 17 seconds left to seal the third-place finish.

“It’s a good way to cap off the season,” Burckhard said. “We had a pretty successful year. The guys put in a lot of work for their careers, especially the seniors. It was a nice way to finish for them.”

Minot junior forward Brent Williams scored 3:21 into the contest to stake the Magicians out to an early 1-0 lead. Williams fired a shot from the side boards that found its way over Vareberg’s glove-side shoulder.

The back-and-forth contest was just beginning as the Packers answered three minutes later to tie the game. A fortuitous bounce off a West Fargo skater allowed the puck to drop directly in front of Austen Larson, who slipped a shot over the stick-side shoulder of Minot junior goaltender Breydan Effertz.

The Magicians reclaimed the lead before the first intermission on senior defenseman Cayde Enns’ first goal of the tournament. After a few quality scoring opportunities by the Magicians, Enns backhanded a bouncing puck in front of the net past Vareberg.

West Fargo again answered Minot’s tally with the only goal of the second period. Packers skater Jake Wasem’s hustle wiped out an icing calling and his hard work paid off as he took control of the puck and slid it under Effertz to tie the game heading into the second intermission.

The Magicians finished the year with an 18-9 record.

Burckhard said he wasn’t anticipating a lag affect from the semifinal loss.

“Not with this group of guys,” he said. “Honestly, we didn’t spend a lot of energy last night, so we had some left to give. I wasn’t too worried about it. We have a good class of kids that have been good off the ice and good on the ice. I knew they would come out and do things the right way and they did.”

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