N.D. state boys hockey tournament notebook: New setup suits athletes and coaches

In its third straight year of hosting the combined North Dakota state boys and girls hockey tournament, Grand Forks appears to have scored a hat trick with its new setup.

Central fans
A Grand Forks Central fan holds a sign towards the Bottineau fans afterr Central scored their fourth goal Thursday. Herald photo by John Stennes.

In its third straight year of hosting the combined North Dakota state boys and girls hockey tournament, Grand Forks appears to have scored a hat trick with its new setup.

Other than the first round of the girls tournament being played in the Olympic Arena adjacent to Ralph Engelstad Arena, all championship round games will be played in the plush Ralph.

That means tournament viewing is easy for the fans, who can walk indoors in the corridors linking the two arenas and see action in both tournaments on one ticket.

In the past, Fido Purpur Arena in Grand Forks has been the site for most of the girls games.

Now, teams don't have to shuttle equipment between rinks and it's a viewing paradise for fans.


In the first games of the tournament on Thursday, for example, both the West Fargo boys and girls teams were playing at the same time.

When a period ended, fans of the Packers could walk a very short distance and check out the action of the other West Fargo team in the arena next door.

The plan seems to be a big hit.

"I think this is nice just for the fact everybody gets to be here (the two Ralph Engelstad Arenas) and you can walk back and forth," West Fargo girls coach Pat Johnson said. "You get a little bit bigger crowd."

Johnson said he would like the Olympic Arena to have more seating capacity, but there were plenty of seats available for Thursday's first game between the Packers and Williston.

There's another plus for the one-stop hockey setup.

"We didn't get media coverage (at Purpur Arena)," Johnson said. "Now we get that."

Put down Johnson as a big fan of the new plan. "It's a nice setup, and I think it's going to go well, and I think everybody's going to be happy," Johnson said.


Johnson liked it at Purpur Arena, too. "Purpur is little louder (than the Olympic Arena) because you can get more fans in there," Johnson said. "But now, when we can walk over and see our boys play, that will make it feel a lot better. It's a nice place to play. I don't think you can beat the facility."

Kacie Johnson, who had all three goals in Thursday's 3-0 West Fargo win over Williston, likes the new arrangement as well.

"It feels better to be with everyone," she said. "You're not moving around as much, and that's pretty nice."

Finally, a win

Williston made its first state tournament appearance in 1997. The Coyotes also qualified 1999, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 but never made it out of the quarterfinal round.

Until Thursday, when Williston stunned Fargo South 4-1.

It's been difficult for West Region teams to beat East Region teams at state, but the first two games of the tournament belonged to Williston and Bismarck High, which best West Fargo.

It marked the first time since 1992 that three West Region teams have won first-round games. That's also the last time a team from the West has won the state title.


Williston coach Dustin Bratlien said his players were focused.

"They're not down here for the roasted almonds and Dippin' Dots," Bratlien said. "There was a little bit of anger on their shoulders."

Williston grabbed a 2-1 lead early in the third period and had to withstand a furious South attack the last 10 minutes.

"It felt like we played six periods," Bratlien said.

Bismarck Century capped the West Region's day with a 3-2 win over Grafton-Park River.

Kauker sighting

Grand Forks' Mark Kauk, named the Herald's sports person of the year for 2009, is known as a super fan who shows up to watch at everything, regardless of the sport or the time.

At 10 a.m. Thursday morning, 90 minutes before the West Fargo and Williston girls were to opening the state tournament, security guard Bob Kerr saw K-Dog, as he's affectionately called, walking into the Olympic Arena, the first one there.


"He called me at 8:30 in the morning to make sure the tickets and program were waiting for him," said Todd Olson, the athletic director for Grand Forks Public Schools and the tournament director.

Knight takes a big hit

Grand Forks Central defenseman Matt Walters took a big open-ice hit from a Bottineau player with 4:52 left in the first period.

Walters was down on the ice for around 15 minutes before he was taken off on a stretcher.

After the game, Central coach Tony Bina said family members had relayed back to the team that Walters was recovering well at the hospital.

Bottineau fans
Bottineau fans show their support for the Braves during Thursday's game against Grand Forks Central in the first round of the ND State Hockey tournament. Herald photo by Eric Hylden

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