WDA teams again face stiff challenge at state boys’ hockey tournament

FARGO – Four WDA teams will head into this week’s ND state boy’s hockey tournament attempting to accomplish something it has not since 2018.

Win a quarterfinal game.

 It’s been a tough stretch for the conference against its EDC counterparts in recent memory, but as we learned last weekend at the West Region Tournament, anything can happen.

The Feb. 22 quarterfinal schedule: (1W) Dickinson vs. (4E) Fargo South-Shanley, 12 noon; (2E) GF Red River vs. (3W) Bismarck Century, 30 minutes after game one; (1E) GF Central vs. (4W) Bismarck Century, 5:30 p.m.; (2W) Minot High vs. (3E) Fargo North, 30 minutes after game three. 

The favorites: Grand Forks Central won last week’s East Region Tournament. The perennial power defeated rival and EDC regular season champion Grand Forks Red River in the title. Both Grand Forks schools will be strong contenders. Fargo North is making its first state tournament in more than a decade, but the Spartans turned in an impressive season thus far. The team has won 18 games and finished third in the ultra-competitive EDC. The team has a win over G.F. Central and two one-goal losses to Red River.

The West’s chances of a quarterfinal win: A week ago that answer would have been easy; Bismarck Century and/or Bismarck Legacy. Both teams looked impressive during the regular season. However, each stumbled in the region tournament, and as a result, have tougher draws in the quarterfinals. Century faces G.F. Red River. Legacy takes on G.F. Central. Minot High, meanwhile, finished runner-up at the region tournament, falling to Dickinson by a goal in the title game. The Magicians played its quarterfinal opponent Fargo North earlier this season and took them to OT before losing. Can Minot High give that effort again? Dickinson arguably has the easiest of the four EDC opponents in the quarterfinals, but don’t let that fool you. Fargo South-Shanley is the defending champion and has state tournament experience. Dickinson, on the other hand, is playing in its first tournament since 2018. But the Midgets are a confident bunch after rattling off three postseason wins in three days. Each WDA entry has challenges to face.

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 or live TV by WDAY.

Welcome back: Fargo North is making its first appearance since 2014. Dickinson last played a state tournament in 2018.

Dickinson: The Midgets entered the West Region Tournament as the No. 4 seed and left as champion three games later. The senior-laden squad is making its first tournament appearance since 2018. The backbone during its recent play has been its goaltending. Bryce Kadrmas pitched a shutout in its region win over Mandan and turned aside 42 shots in a 2-1 win over Minot High in the region final. The junior has picked up 14 wins and has a save percentage of 90.5 and a GAA of 2.75. Three Dickinson players have 30 or more points led by senior defenseman Kaeden Krieg. The all-conference player has 37 points. Defenseman Tanner Roers has also been solid and was named to the all-WDA squad. Senior Kasey Stengel has 33 and senior Kaden Dvorak has 30 to provide scoring punch from the forwards.

Minot High: The Magicians are making their sixth-straight tournament appearance. Minot finished third in WDA regular season play and earned a runner-up finish at the region tournament for a second-straight year. Eleven skaters have 10 or more points and junior forward Mackley Morelli leads the way with 45. The all-conference selection has a team-high 24 goals. Fellow junior Easton Panasuk had 33 points. The defense is led by all-WDA selection Jaxon Radke. Minot’s goaltending has been inconsistent this season. Three goalies have been in four or more games. Sophomore Devon Keller played in all three games at last week’s West Region Tournament. Minot High went 4-2 in non-conference play. One of its two losses came in overtime against Fargo North. The last time the Magi reached the state semifinals was the season they won it all, 2014-15.

Bismarck Legacy: The Sabers program has been around for just three years, but this is already their third trip to the big show. What the program is still seeking is a tournament win. For a second season in a row, Legacy was a victory away from a WDA regular season title, but had to settle for second place. The squad has won 18 games and had a season-high nine-game win streak from mid-December until the end of January. Scoring goals has not been an issue for this club and two players, junior all-conference selection Drew Beasley (58) and senior Marcus Butt (51) are among the state leaders in points. Beasley has a team-high 28 goals. Eight Legacy players have 11 or more points. In goal, senior Ty Miller has carried a majority of the workload. He has been in net against most of the tougher opponents. He has a 90.5 save percentage and a 2.42 GAA. The all-WDA selection had two shutouts at the region tournament, including a 1-0 win in the state qualifier vs. Mandan. Junior Tristan Otto has played in seven games and has a save percentage of 91.4 and a GAA of 1.71. Interestingly, Legacy was supposed to play G.F. Central during the regular season, but the game was canceled due to weather. The teams met last season with the Knights prevailing, 5-2, at home.

Bismarck Century: The Patriots were rolling into the postseason on 13-game winning streak. However, it needed a pair of one-goal wins at the West Region Tournament to extend its season into this week, including a third period comeback in the state qualifying contest against Jamestown. The Patriots won the WDA regular season with an explosive offense and sound defense. Nine times the squad has scored seven or more goals in a game. Five forwards have posted 34 or more points. Juniors and all-WDA selections Charlie Vig, and Andrew Brubakken each have 23 goals and 45 points. Senior Dawson Lentz, another all-conference forward, has 44 points. Defensively, the team has held opponents to one or fewer goals nine times. And that was needed last week in the regionals in a pair of 2-1 victories. Anchoring the defensive core are blue liners are senior Hayden Ritter and freshman Haydon Eckart. Senior goalie Hoyt Ubl has 11 wins and a save percentage of 88.4 and a 2.73 GAA. The Patriots have a stiff test against G.F. Red River. The Roughriders are the EDC regular season champion and boast a deep and talented lineup. Century’s last quarterfinal win at the state tournament came in 2018 against Grafton-Park River. That was the last time a WDA team has won on opening day.

Photo: Bryce Kadrmas, Dickinson goalie