Elle Black gets the lone goal, Molly Black finishes with 34 saves and named to all tournament team for Devils Lake.

FARGO — In sports, matchups are about neutralizing what your opponent does best. And sometimes, the game itself dictates the neutralization process more so than the matchup.

Case in point: the third place game of the 2020 North Dakota High School Activities Association state girls hockey tournament. Devils Lake had defeated Minot twice before in their regular season meetings. The Firebirds even defeated the Majettes by four goals in the last meeting back on Jan. 25. So on paper, it appeared that the Firebirds had the Majettes number right?

Well … 

“In state, they let you play a little bit against the boards and them being a larger team — by size — benefitted them a little bit, kinda took away from our speed aspect which we didn’t get a chance to use until the third period anyway,” said Firebirds head coach Rob McIvor.

The Majettes won the rubber match on Saturday, Feb. 29, 4-1. With the loss, the Firebirds’ season concluded in fourth place — mirroring their finish in the regular season standings. Saturday culminated a two-year run by the Firebirds that saw them qualify for the state tournament in 2019 for the first time since 2004 and winning a tournament game for the first time.

“We had never won a game at state, we accomplished that this year and the girls should be really proud of that. Did we come up short today (on Saturday)? Yeah, a little bit, but at the same time we’re running two lines whereas other teams have three or four so it does wear them down and after Friday’s game, they’re a lot of tired legs,” McIvor said.

“But at the end of the day, they fought hard, did exactly what I had asked of them all year long and I’m really proud of them.”

Abby Tallman scored two goals for the Majettes, her second goal three minutes, 47 seconds of the third period broke a 1-all tie. Tallman, who got the assist from Taylyn Cope and O’Malley Eslinger, was able to get the puck past Molly Black’s left shoulder on a deflection. It was part of a three goal period for the Majettes, the final goal an empty-netter by Eslinger with three seconds left in the game.

Elle Black’s goal 16:12 of the first period, assisted by Abbey Reule and Vivianna Kraft, tied the game at 1. The Firebirds were outshot 38-11 and only managed seven quality scoring opportunities to Minot’s 21.

“The first two times we played them, we got shots off quicker before they got sticks in the way but today (Saturday) it just seemed as if they always had a stick on puck, stick on puck,” McIvor said of the shot disparity. “They blocked a lot of shots, either with their body or with their sticks.”

Molly Black finished the game with 34 saves. She concluded the tournament with 115 saves over the three days, earning her the all-tournament team selection at goalie.

The summary can be found here.

Chris Harris can be found at charris@devilslakejournal.com.

All Tournament Team

Josie Hell (Defense), Fargo North/South

Paige Ackerman (Defense), Minot

Paige Hanson (Defense), Fargo Davies

Riley Ball (Forward), Bismarck

Madison Brown (Forward), Bismarck

Olivia Opheim (Forward), Fargo Davies

Molly Black (Goalie), Devils Lake

Co-MVP:

Riley Ball, Bismarck

Madison Brown, Bismarck

Senior Athlete of the Year:

Josie Hell, Fargo North/South

Coach of the Year

Josh Issertel, Fargo Davies