Bismarck has been the best boys hockey team in the West Region during the first half of the season, and the Demons just got a lot better.
Joining Bismarck’s lineup for tonight’s showdown with archrival Century will be Tre Kautzman, the former Mandan standout who has transferred to BHS.
Kautzman, a senior forward, scored 71 goals in three seasons with the Braves, including 28 each his sophomore and junior years. A two-time all-region selection, Kautzman finished fifth in the state in goals last year and eighth in scoring with 47 points.
“He’s definitely going to help our scoring,” Bismarck coach Mike Peluso said. “We’ve have had a little trouble putting pucks in the net, and he’s a proven goal scorer.”
Kautzman began the season playing Tier III junior hockey for the Alexandria Blizzard formerly of the NAHL, but now in the NA3HL. Kautzman played nine games with the Blizzard, recording one goal and three assists.
“My time in juniors didn’t work out the way I expected,” Kautzman said. “And my family supports me enough to move to Bismarck.”
And it was because of that move that Kautzman is eligible to play at Bismarck. Kautzman does not have to attend his new school for 180 days to play varsity sports at BHS, but did have to serve a six-game suspension for playing one junior game after the high school team began practicing.
“It’s a bit of a combination of two rules,” explained Matt Fetsch, assistant to the executive director of the North Dakota High School Athletic Association. “The transfer rule is one. … He’s a transfer student. His family has moved to Bismarck. Anytime a family moves into a new district, students are immediately eligible for varsity competition.
“… But if they play during that season for a different team other than the high school team, there’s a six-game suspension for every contest they play in,” Fetsch added.
Kautzman says his new teammates have made his transition easy.
“This team has a very tight bond and accepted me in with open arms,” he said.
Even without Kautzman, the Demons are off to a strong start. Bismarck is 10-0 overall, 6-0 in the West Region. On the whole, Peluso was pleased with Bismarck’s play at the Stadstad Classic. After a rough start, Bismarck put together a solid third period in a loss to Grand Forks Red River, then bounced back with victories over Shakopee, Minn., and Grand Forks Central.
Century is 8-2 overall and 4-2 in the region — with one of their losses incurred by its JV in a game that counted in the standings. The Patriots, who also went 2-1 at the Stadstad, have finished first in the West Region standings for four straight seasons.
“It should be a battle, a good game,” Peluso said. “They’re a good hockey team, and it’s Century.”