The final result wasn’t what the Mandan Braves were hoping for.
But first-year Braves coach Steph Hoard saw some good things in the season opener, despite a 5-2 loss to Minot on Nov. 20 at Starion Sports Complex.
"I am absolutely impressed with my team. I’m not disappointed at all,” Hoard said. “We had a goalie in that was the second time ever seeing a varsity game and she played a heck of a hockey game. She really came out and gave us what we needed in the net and my team stepped up, they really did.
"They worked hard, they never stopped and it really just came down to a couple bounces. I’m really impressed with what we have. I look forward to the season with this team.”
Through 34 minutes, the Braves were in position to pick up a season-opening victory.
But Minot finished strong.
Junior Brenna Abrahamson posted a hat trick — including the game-winning power-play goal with less than five minutes to play and a big insurance goal with less than two minutes on the clock to seal the win.
Junior O’Malley Eslinger had two goals in the Magicians’ four-goal final period — notching the equalizer just two minutes into the third, and an empty-netter at 16:08 to push the Minot lead to three goals.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the final period, Minot wasted little time evening it up as Eslinger scored unassisted two minutes in.
A little more than eight minutes later, Abrahamson scored a rebound goal on power play at 10:14, taking the lead for good at 10:14.
“Taking a penalty at any time is never good, and they capitalized on it,” Hoard said. “Just kind of the way the game goes sometimes.
“A bad time to take a penalty but we’re going to be resilient.”
Mandan goaltender Trystin Neustel helped the Braves stymie the Magicians early on. Neustel stopped 23 shots – 14 in the second period, when Mandan took the lead – over the first 34 minutes and made several big saves all night, finishing with 29 stops.
Minot struck early, grabbing the lead just under three minutes into the contest when Abrahamson scored on a backhander to the glove side, beating Neustel for a 1-0 lead at 2:52 of the first period.
The Braves evened it up at 11:59 of the first, when Emily Horner got the puck on a breakaway, skated in on Minot goaltender Amber Borkhuis and fired a wrister into the net to make it 1-1 at 11:59 of the first.
Mandan grabbed the lead late in the second period. Shortly after killing off the second of two Minot power-play opportunities in the period, the Braves seized the lead for the first time when Ana Ross found the net off an assist by Emily Froelich to finish on a flurry in front of the Magicians’ net.
Ross’ goal made it 2-1 Mandan at 13:04 of the second, and the hosts took a one-goal lead into the third period.
Borhkuis stopped 18 shots in the game, including all four she faced in the final period, to get the win in net for the Magicians.
Despite the loss, Hoard was pleased with the Braves’ effort.
“They didn’t quit — and that’s all I asked of them to give me their hardest and try their best,” she said.