Senior Morgan Stenseth scored 14 seconds into the second overtime period to lead the Grand Forks KnightRiders to a 3-2 win over Minot on Tuesday in the opening round of the North Dakota state girls hockey tournament at Eagles Arena.
The win was Grand Forks’ first state quarterfinal win since 2016, breaking a streak that was weighing on head coach Alex Hedlund and her team. The KnightRiders now advance to Friday’s semifinal round at Engelstad Arena.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Hedlund. “These seniors had yet to get a quarterfinal win and it’s only fitting that a senior scores the game-winner.”.
The KnightRiders started the game strong by drawing two power play opportunities in the first and were finally able to cash in at the very end of their second chance. With three-and-a-half minutes left in the opening frame, senior Megan Jacobson pounced on a turnover behind the Minot net and snuck in a wraparound marker to put Grand Forks up 1-0.
Playing with the lead, the KnightRiders needed to be disciplined but they, unfortunately, would make two mistakes in the middle frame.
Another late power play goal came in the second period, this time by Minot. The Majettes’ biggest offensive burst would result in junior defenseman Emily Thiele shoveling a backhand in the slot through the legs of Baker and knotting the score 1-1.
“It was definitely a game of special teams,” said Minot coach Chris Stokke. “We capitalized a couple of times. We would have liked to get another one, but sometimes you get that opportunity.”.
A second Grand Forks penalty taken in the last minute of the second period would prove to be costly headed into the third period.
Abigail Tallman put Minot in front 2-1 in the opening minute when she was able to finish a nifty setup on the power play. Thiele and Alyssa Enns made crisp passes through the crease where Tallman finished on the backdoor.
The KnightRiders’ Shaley Richards got the equalizer when she corralled a shot from the point and her backhanded rebound somehow found a way through Borkhuis, making it a 2-2 game with just over 9:30 left in the third.
There would be other chances in regulation but nothing substantial, bringing on overtime. The second consecutive quarterfinal that went beyond regulation for Grand Forks, after losing to Devils Lake in four overtimes in last season’s tournament..
“We didn’t play an overtime game all season long,” Hedlund said. “We lost last year in four overtimes, you might as well win this one in double overtime. It’s an amazing feeling and we told our girls we’re not done yet.”
Minot nearly ended the game after a deflection bounced in front of Baker and hit the post, just one of many chances they would get in the first overtime session. Grand Forks would answer with some high danger shots of their own late in the frame, but nothing showed for it on the scoreboard.
“A great group of girls but it just wasn’t in the cards tonight,” said Stokke. “You have to give it to Grand Forks; they worked really hard. They’re a good team and really well-coached but sometimes you don’t get a bounce and that’s what happened today.
The game would continue to double overtime and it seemed that full intermission would be the breather the KnightRiders needed. Off the opening faceoff, Grand Forks pressured the Majettes in their own end.
“We needed that rest,” Hedlund said. “We were riding our top two lines. We needed the physical rest but we also needed the mental rest. Just take a second and breathe. We have the home seed, we’re playing on our rink in front of our fans, we deserve this win.”
Stenseth carried a puck down the far boards and threw a shot on net. She was able to follow up on her chance and seal the victory for Grand Forks.
“We kept talking about it. We have to crash the net,” Hedlund said of her message in between periods. “A good shot on net, (Stenseth) was there to hammer it home and I haven’t been happier in my career.”