Braves end season in Bismarck
The battle-tested Bottineau-Rugby Braves traveled to the West Region playoffs in Bismarck last weekend, where the young team met goals and learned lessons.
The Braves secured a berth in the playoffs after a 7-4 win over Hazen-Beulah last Monday in Bottineau.
Rivals Minot Magicians faced off against the Braves at the Bismarck VFW Sports Center on the first day of regional play last Thursday. The Braves’ defensive players were ready for them.
The first period saw Braves taking control of the puck whenever possible, with the Magicians doing their best to make it disappear from their control.
An apparent Magician goal in the first period vanished as well, when referees determined Minot had kicked the puck into the Braves’ net.
The Braves’ defense grew fierce, keeping the Magicians from scoring for the first two periods.
Unfortunately for the Braves, the Magicians’ defense kept them from scoring as well.
Braves goalie Tyler Olson stayed alert at the net, racking up 30 saves in the game to Magician Tre Sortland’s 20 saves.
About eight minutes into the third period, the Magicians penetrated the Braves’ defenses. An unassisted shot by Minot’s Aiden Morelli sailed just inches over Olson’s head and into the top of the Braves’ goal net.
Morelli scored another goal about eight minutes later, assisted this time by Jack Plemel and Nicholas Murphy.
Murphy scored an unassisted goal less than three minutes later, and as the clock ran down to the last 38 seconds of the game, Jayden Luck secured a 4-0 victory for Minot with a goal assisted by Isaiah Thongphet.
After the game, Braves Coach Jesse Nostdahl said, “The only goal I really want to focus on is when those guys went up one to nothing on us. When those guys went to the bench, I told them they did everything right, and they did. They played their systems right. It’s just one of those things where they had a nice shot and they capitalized on it.”
“I didn’t want them to change anything about how they were playing today and they did fantastic,” Nostdahl added.
A loser-out game for the West Region followed the next day. The Braves faced the Jamestown Blue Jays this time. The Braves had beaten the number 5 seed with a 7-6 score in January.
Friday’s game had a high score again, but this time, the Blue Jays came out on top.
Blue Jay Joe Cummings scored the first goal of the game about three minutes into the first period, assisted by Tommy Falk. Seconds later, Falk scored a goal, this time assisted by Cummings and Corey Nelson.
Bottineau forward Ian Amsbaugh answered with a goal at 9:02, assisted by forward Landon Rosendahl. Jamestown’s Hunter Nelson answered back with an unassisted goal at 10:19, ending the period with a 3-1 lead.
Jamestown’s Nolan Nenow began the second period with a goal at 2:23 with Nelson and Jace Thompson assisting. Amsbaugh scored another Braves’ goal at 5:38 with Rosendahl assisting again.
Nenow wrapped up the second period with another Jamestown goal, assisted by Nelson and Connor McLachlan.
The third period began with a 5-2 Blue Jays lead. Amsbaugh shot a Braves’ goal 19 seconds into the period with Riley Bieberdorf assisting. After defenses on both sides sharpened, Amsbaugh scored another goal, this time with Rosendahl assisting.
The Blue Jays added distance to their now one point lead with a Thompson goal (Nenow, Nelson assisting) at 14:21. Nelson shot a final goal unassisted in the final 20 seconds of the game to nail down a 7-4 victory.
As the Braves’ season ended, Amsbaugh was named to the All Conference Team for North Dakota’s west region. Amsbaugh had held the top spot among state high school hockey scorers all season.
“I felt we accomplished many of our goals we set for ourselves,” Nostdahl reflected after the season’s end. “We wanted to start to build the roots of a very strong culture and I thought we did that.”
Via text message to the Tribune, Nostahl said, “My big takeaway is we learned what it takes to be a competitive team in the West. We have a really strong core of guys becoming seniors next year and they are experienced and battle tested. “
“They are going to work very hard in the off season and we already are chomping at the bit to get going. Lots of positive signs and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Nostdahl said of the young team.
Two Braves, Rugby’s Jesse Mattern and Towner’s Reese Mohagen will graduate in May. Most players will return to Braves hockey next year.
“We are very thankful for the co-op with Bottineau-Rugby and look to strengthen (the team) even more,” Nostdahl said. “We feel it’s an exciting and hopeful time for Bottineau Rugby Hockey.”
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