FARGO-Fargo Davies girls hockey coach Josh Issertell experienced the miracle of life this week with the birth of his daughter Emersynne Marie. He nearly coached Davies to what many would consider a miracle win in the state semifinals on Friday, Feb. 24, at Scheels Arena.
Delaney Wolf, however, wasn't about to let her senior season end in the state semifinals. Her goal with 3 minutes, 17 seconds remaining sent Bismarck to its fifth straight state championship game after a 3-2 win.
"There's ups and downs in hockey games, and you can't just let yourself be affected by what just happened on the ice," Bismarck coach Tim Meyer said. "You have to go out there and play your best on the next shift and see what happens. Somebody on the bench had the chance to be the hero. It was Delaney Wolf who stepped up today."
Four minutes before Wolf became the hero, Kylie Schafer's wrister from the high slot was what had the crowd buzzing. Schafer's goal with 7:18 to go tied the game at 2-2 and an upset over top-seeded Bismarck, a team that had lost just once to a North Dakota team since the 2014 state championship game, became feasible.
"It's a tough loss against an opponent who has been there and done it before," Issertell said. "I was just extremely proud of their effort. Our kids worked hard from the drop of the puck all the way to the end. We made life difficult for them. We were hard on every puck."
In the closing minutes, Wolf got the puck in the left circle. She fired around a defender and between the legs of Davies goalie Sydney Peterson.
"I didn't even think it went in at first," Wolf said. "Then, I saw the back of the net and I think I jumped about 5 feet in the air. This is my senior year, so it's my last chance to show anything, my last chance to play with the Blizzard, and this year there's been a lot of upsets, a lot of crazy turnouts for games, so it's a big difference."
No. 5 seed Davies (16-9) struck first when Alexis Matter stuffed home a rebound for a power-play goal less than eight minutes into the game. The Eagles had a shot to put a scare into the top seed early with a 5-on-3 advantage for two minutes, but the Blizzard killed the penalty. The Blizzard (22-3-1) gave up just one goal during a five-minute major with two of those minutes being a 5-on-3 advantage for the Eagles.
Bismarck then delivered a big backbreaker when Wolf found Kaitlyn Page behind everyone in the closing seconds of the first. Page went top shelf to tie it with a power-play goal and the Blizzard had momentum with 7.7 seconds remaining in the first.
Davies hung around with Bismarck in the second, but Britta Curl is too much for any team. With 5:30 left in the second, Curl pushed the puck along the boards, around the goal, used a screen from Page, turned and fired from the right circle and the Blizzard were up 2-1. The power-play goal was Curl's 40th of the season.
Davies was playing in its first semifinal game in program history. Bismarck's experience showed in the final minutes, as the back-to-back state champions found the winner.
"We went toe-to-toe with them for three periods," Issertell said. "I think it shows the character we have in the room. We have kids that believe in each other. They weren't afraid of the moment. They had an intense desire to go in there and prove something to everybody."
FIRST PERIOD: 1, FD, Matter (Sampson), 7:55, pp. 2, B, Page (Wolf), 16:52, pp.
SECOND PERIOD: 3, B, Curl (Lenertz), 11:30, pp.
THIRD PERIOD: 4, FD, Schafer (Sampson), 9:42. 5, B, Wolf (Hasche), 13:43.
SAVES: FD, Peterson 9-9-10-28. B, Watkins 7-4-1-12.