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Braves state bound after 2-1 win against Bismarck in regionals

By Sue Sitter - | Feb 27, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT The Bottineau-Rugby Braves gather with their coaches on the ice after defeating the Bismarck Demons.

Following a season and post-season marked with ups and downs, the Bottineau-Rugby Braves earned a berth at state after defeating the Bismarck Demons 2-1 Saturday, Feb. 20, at MAYSA Arena in Minot.

The Braves went into post-season play with a number six ranking and a desire to prove themselves. Their coach, Jessie Nostdahl said the team had “stretches of good hockey” during the season. The Braves had struggled against teams like Jamestown’s Blue Jays and Bismarck’s Demons, then easily defeated Mandan’s Braves and Dickinson’s Midgets.

Bottineau would meet those teams as the season wound down and see very different results with Bismarck and Jamestown.

The Braves defeated the Demons 2-0 Jan. 29, a very good omen for their next meeting at western regionals.

And after two close losses to the Blue Jays in December and January, the number six-seed Braves would face then number-three seed team again, this time at regional quarterfinals in Jamestown.

The Braves defeated the Blue Jays 7-4, due in part to forward Ian Amsbaugh, who holds the number four rank in the state for goals. Amsbaugh shot three of them in Jamestown.

The first Braves goal for that game came early, shot at 12:10 by Colton Getzlaff with assistance by Macen Heisler and Matt Olson. Olson shot the next goal for the Braves and assisted with a goal by Landon Rosendahl in the third period.

Bottineau-Rugby saw 43 total shots on goal to Jamestown’s 28 for the game. Braves goalie Tyler Olson logged 24 saves for the game.

Bus problems on their way home that frigid evening did little to curb the Braves’ enthusiasm. Instead, after receiving help from Carrington Public Schools, the team gave a shout-out to Carrington on social media.

The next hurdle in store for the Braves lay ahead at MAYSA Arena in Minot, where the Braves fell to the number two-ranked Magicians in the semifinal round, 6-2.

However, the Braves’ win over the Blue Jays earned them a chance to qualify for state.

Bottineau faced the Bismarck Demons at MAYSA Feb. 20. They’d fallen to the Demons and defeated them during the regular season.

It seemed the Demons would win again in the state qualifier round, at first.

Bismarck’s Nico Mortensen shot an unassisted goal at 12:48 in period one to give the Demons a 1-0 lead.

The Braves mounted a tough defense, taking only four penalties throughout the game, one of them for too many players on the ice.

Tyler Olson made 32 saves for the game from 33 Bismarck shots on goal.

After a scoreless second period where defenders ruled, the third period began.

Braves began to swarm the Demons’ goal, keeping the puck away from Demon defenders. Five minutes into the period, Matt Olson landed a shot through the net, tying the score 1-1 and bringing Bottineau-Rugby fans to their feet.

A crowd of high-school-age boosters from Bottineau and Rugby had cheered the team on during the game. They went wild during the game’s final minutes.

With a trip to state a growing possibility, the Braves moved more energetically on the ice. Passes found their mark, and the Braves stayed in Demon territory.

At 14:47, the Braves swarmed Bismarck’s net again, and the team piled on each other, cheering. A light in the arena signaled a goal, but the judges stayed quiet. The crowd waited in suspense.

Finally, the judges signaled a goal for the Braves. Fans screamed.

Demons scrambled for the puck. Their few shot attempts missed and the Braves stayed in command. With the puck in their possession, the Braves saw the final seconds tick away on the clock, sealing their win and sending them into a group hug.

“When I shot that goal, I saw it trickle in. It’s a good thing there was a goal judge there to see it go in,” Amsbaugh said of his winning goal after the game. “I’m happy, but I couldn’t do this without my team,” the Bottineau High senior added.

Rugby High juniors Dalton and Cole Vietz-Reile celebrated their victory along with their teammates. “It feels great to go to state,” Cole said. “I just feel glad I could help my team.”

When asked about the ups and downs of the Braves’ season, Nostdahl said, “That’s hockey.”

“We knew what we had to do when we faced Bismarck today. We knew we had to adapt a little, but roll with the punches,” he added.

Looking ahead to state quarterfinals, Nostdahl added, “We’re going to take it one game at a time. We’re going to face one of the premiere teams in the state in Grand Forks, Grand Forks Central High School.”

“We’re just going to have to roll with the punches,” he added.

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