Braves fall to Mandan, 5-4, in state-qualifier
The Bottineau-Rugby hockey players took some time to enjoy themselves at Al Wentz Arena on Tuesday following a shocking, season-ending loss to Mandan on Feb. 15 in a state-qualifier at the West Region tournament in Minot.
The premature end to the season came in their sixth game in 10 days. MHS held on for a 5-4 win despite losing two regular season games to B-R by a combined score of 15-4.
Tuesday’s intrasquad scrimmage brought smiles back as leading scorers Harrison Aide and Luke Amsbaugh added some pads and assumed roles as netminders.
“It just didn’t work out for us,” B-R coach David Hoff said. “It’s disappointing, but I think our kids played hard. We just didn’t get the play we needed to in the end.”
Mandan struck first with a goal from Colton Murphy in the fourth minute of the second period, but the No. 4 seeded Braves tied it up less than a minute later on an unassisted effort from senior Cody Bedlion. No. 7 seed Mandan scored two more before the seven-minute mark and Bottineau responded with three straight goals from junior Amsbaugh. His first two came on the power play.
“We still couldn’t generate a lot of energy,” Hoff said. “We’d play a few guys and it just couldn’t get deep enough. We made some plays. We got to 4-3. We just had some tough breaks go against us.”
Hoff said Mandan was rewarded goals on one play that should’ve been nullified for icing and another that never crossed the goal line after hitting the cross bar.
“We just didn’t have enough energy to overcome that,” Hoff said. “It’s not the only reason we lost, it just didn’t work out for us.”
The last win for the senior class came in the quarterfinal round with a 4-1 win over Jamestown. The Blue Jays beat B-R the week before, but senior standout Aide slapped home the final hat trick of his high school career to send the Braves to the semifinals.
Aide scored in each period and Amsbaugh gave the team a 3-0 lead midway through the second period. Rugby High School senior Nigel Hageness had the assist on Aide’s second goal. The weekend was bittersweet for the future North Dakota State University track and field sprinter.
“It’s meant a lot to me over the years,” Hageness said. “It’s hard to find words for it. I’ve been playing since as long as I can remember. It’s kind of weird to even think about life without it.”
The Braves dropped into the state-qualifier following a 6-1 loss to eventual champion Bismarck High. The Demons led 5-0 before Amsbaugh finally got the Braves on the board seven minutes into the third period. BHS peppered B-R senior goaltender Riley Monson with 50 shots compared to just 15 for the Braves. B-R couldn’t recover the next day against Mandan.
“They were just more excited,” Aide said. “They came out a lot better and with more energy than us.”
The Braves finished 14-10 overall and will likely have the state’s top two players in points this season despite not making the state tournament. Aide finished his remarkable run with 92 points (52 g, 40 a) as a senior and 311 in his career – a state record by almost double the next closest marks. Amsbaugh finished with 85 points (47 g, 38 a). Only two other players topped 60 through the region tournaments, Minot’s Quinn Fuchs at 64 (23 g, 41 a) and Century’s Keaton Leininger at 61 (31 g, 30 a).
B-R loses seven seniors, but returns Amsbaugh and top-line forward Noah Grant, who was third on the team with 43 points (10 g, 33 a).
“We got a lot of young guys that played a lot between the JV and some of the minutes they got in (varsity),” Hoff said, “so with the core we have coming back, we saw a lot of improvement out of our young kids. If we can see that same improvement next year, I think that’s gonna be real crucial for us.”