Three WDA teams part of ND girls' hockey tournament field

FARGO – Three WDA teams will be part of the eight-team field at this week’s North Dakota state girls’ tournament. The puck drops on Thursday, Feb. 22 with quarterfinal play.

West Fargo United is the top seed and will face No. 8 Bismarck Century in the tournament opener. No. 4 Grand Forks will take on No. 5 Fargo Davies in game two. No. 2 Fargo North-South will then face No. 7 Devils Lake and the final game of the day features two WDA teams as No. 3 Mandan faces No. 6 Legacy-Bismarck High. Those teams met last season in the 3 vs. 6 game with Legacy-BHS upsetting the Braves. Consolation and semifinal games are Friday, Feb. 23 with the fifth place, third place and championship games on Saturday, Feb. 24.

The favorites: That’s difficult to say given how competitive ND League play this season. Fifty-four games were decided by one goal. Every team played in at least four, one-goal games and Fargo Davies, Minot High and Williston played in 12. With that parity it’s hard to say if there is a clear-cut favorite to win this year’s title. Fargo North-South is the two-time defending champion. Fargo Davies has been in the past three championship games, winning a title in 2020-21. Regular season champion West Fargo United, No. 3 Mandan and No. 4 Grand Forks all have had impressive winning streaks this season.

Welcome to the party: Devils Lake is making its first state tournament appearance. The Firebirds are the No. 6 seed and boast the state’s top two scorers in senior Ashlyn Abrahamson (61 points) and Siri Olson (43). 

Final day drama: Bismarck Century was the final team to clinch a state tournament berth. The Patriots needed at least one point in its last game to qualify. The squad erased a two-goal deficit to Devils Lake to force overtime and eventually win in a shootout. This is the second year the Patriots have had its own program.

TV/Web coverage: WDAY-TV is televising and live video web streaming tournament games (check the NDHSAA website for more viewing details)…Tournament games will be carried either through streaming of live TV by WDAY

Mandan: The No. 3 seeded Braves enter the state tournament on a four-game winning streak. Earlier this season the squad turned in an impressive nine wins in a row. Team defense has been a strong suit of the team as the Braves have allowed just 35 goals. Mandan has six players with 10 or more points and three players with 10 or more goals (Kenlee Edland, McKenzie Yantzer and Mikayla Fleck). Edland, a senior, leads the team with 19 points. Sophomore goalie Keiley Bures has 17 victories, including seven shutouts. Her save percentage (93.6) and a goals against average (1.44) is among the state’s best. The games with quarterfinal opponent Legacy-BHS have been one-goal affairs. Mandan won 3-2 and Legacy-BHS won in a shootout. The Braves’ best tournament finish was third in 2016-17.

Legacy-Bismarck High: The second-year program has back-to-back state tournament appearances and enters tournament play on a two-game winning streak. The No. 6 seed has been competitive in nearly all of its ND League games. Eleven times the outcome of a game has been by one goal (L-B has won six of them). Senior forward Ava Krikorian is among the state’s best players. Her 14 goals and 31 points are tops on the team. Four other players have 13 or more points. Rylee Otto has played in 20 games and has 10 victories. She has an 87.3 save percentage and a 2.74 goals against average.  The games with quarterfinal opponent Mandan have been one-goal affairs. Mandan won 3-2 and Legacy-BHS won in a shootout.

Bismarck Century: The Patriots needed at least one point in its final regular season game to earn a spot in the state tournament. This is the program’s second year of existence. Like man teams this season, No. 8 Century has been in several tightly-contested games. Ten have been decided by one goal, including one-goals losses to West Fargo United and Fargo North-South. Junior forward Avery Matt leads the team with 24 goals and 32 points. Senior Brenna Curl has split time between forward and defense and has 15 points. Two other players have 10 or more points. The team took a blow earlier this month when junior goalie Kambree Grabar was lost to a season-ending injury. Sophomore Ellie Horner, who has played in 10 games, will be between the pipes. Horner has a save percentage of 87.1 and a 3.25 goals against average. Century finished fifth at last year’s state tournament.