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Blizzard rally to beat Mandan and advance to state hockey semifinals

Blizzard rally to beat Mandan and advance to state hockey semifinals

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Bismarck Blizzard forward Ava Krikorian, right, pushes the puck up the ice against Mandan in the first period at Tuesday night's state tournament quarterfinal game at the VFW Sports Center. 

The six-time defending state girls hockey champions issued a Blizzard warning on Tuesday with a 5-3 come-from-behind win over the Mandan Braves in the quarterfinals of the state hockey tournament at the VFW Sports Center.

 Sophomore goalie Brooklyn Skjeret came on in the second period with Bismarck down 3-0 and stopped the next 14 shots, including 12 in the third period. It was just her third game of the season.

 “You have a senior who wasn’t on her A game today so we tossed Brooklyn in to maybe spark something in the team. It was more than a spark, it was an ignition,” Bismarck coach Tim Meyer said. “Credit her for being ready to come in even though she has had limited playing time. That’s awesome to see her rise to the occasion.”

 Madison Cole and Ava Krikorian scored two goals apiece for the Blizzard, who trailed 3-1 heading into the third period. Skjeret’s play in the nets and Cole’s first goal midway through the second period swung momentum.

 The Blizzard, who improved to 3-0 against Mandan this season, will play Fargo Davies in the semifinals Friday at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. They lost twice to Davies during the regular season.

 The Blizzard controlled the first period in all areas except one -- the score. Freshman forward Madison Hertz scored at 4:33 to give the Braves a 1-0 lead. Hertz knocked down a shot on goal and chased down the puck sliding across the front of the goal. While sprawling out, she swiped the loose puck past Hellman.

 Mandan goalie Jayli Wandler made that stand up through the first period despite constant pressure from Bismarck. Wandler made 11 of her 30 saves in the opening frame.

 The Braves extended the lead to 3-0 with two goals in just 31 seconds. Maci Berg picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and, in what happened time and again, skated right past the Bismarck defense and scored at 6:11 to make it 2-0.

 Hertz struck again, just like Berg, at 5:42. She got behind the defense and beat Hellman over the shoulder for a 3-0 lead. The Blizzard then replaced Hellman in nets with Skjeret and she was immediately tested.

 “I was very nervous, not playing a lot this year,” Skjeret said. “I was thankful for the opportunity.”

 The Blizzard finally got on the board at 4:35 when the puck got under Wandler and eventually trickled in. Cole was given the goal. Each team killed off a penalty late and they went to the third period with the Braves up 3-1 thanks to 14 more saves by Wandler.

 Meyer said Cole’s goal was big even if the Blizzard still trailed by two.

"It’s like we needed something to happen in the game so we could finally play loose,” he said. “Then you can just go out and play hockey and not be scared to lose.”

 Getting through the second period was the key, Skjeret said.

 “It helped me to calm down a lot. I was shaking,” Skjeret said. “It’s a lot harder (being thrown in) because you’re not warmed up. I relaxed in the third.”

 With Skjeret solid in nets, the Blizzard turned up the pressure in the neutral zone. Jayda Krikorian scored at 1:46 and Ava Krikorian at 7:58 to tie the game.

 Cole broke the tie with a feed from Tyra Skjeret and had a run at Wandler, beating her with a wrister to break the tie. Ava Krikorian added an insurance goal to finish the comeback.

 “I think there were a lot of nerves going into this one,” Meyer said. “We have a lot of kids that have been there but it’s a different year. It’s hosting a state tournament game and playing in VFW, but all those are excuses. Truthfully, Mandan is a hard team to play against.”

 The Blizzard have appeared in each of the 19 state tournaments and in the last eight championship games, winning seven times. Bismarck beat Davies 2-0 in last year’s title game.

Mandan was playing in its seventh state tournament, all coming since 2014.

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