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Girls' hockey growth leads North Dakota athletics officials to move start of state tournament to Wednesday – Grand Forks Herald

Girls' hockey growth leads North Dakota athletics officials to move start of state tournament to Wednesday – Grand Forks Herald

 


BIG FORKS In the 2024 North Dakota State girls hockey tournament, No. 8 seed Bismarck Century, which entered the tournament with a 9-13 record, upset No. 1 West Fargo United in the opening round.

Century then defeated No. 4 Grand Forks in the semifinals to secure a spot in the championship game.

The parity in girls' hockey created an exciting state tournament atmosphere that has contributed to the sport's popularity.

The North Dakota High School Athletics Association is making a change in 2025 to capitalize on the growth of girls hockey.

The North Dakota State boys and girls hockey tournaments will move back to Ralph Engelstad Arena in 2025, with the girls tournament starting on a Wednesday, the day before the boys tournament begins.

The quarter-finals for the four girls will be played on the main court at The Ralph. When the tournament was held in Grand Forks in previous years, the opening round of the girls tournament was often played at the REA Olympic rink, which has limited seating.

To have the opportunity to play on an NHL-caliber rink with The Ralph … it's going to be a really fun experience for the eight teams and the respective girls, Grand Forks coach Kelly Kilgore said. That will be a very special deal for the girls competing, and I think it will only enhance the state tournament experience as a whole for everyone.

The decision to move the girls state quarterfinals to its own day solved a logistical problem for the NDHSAA and TV partners, which ran into some issues when all of the tournament's matches were now televised. Splitting the girls and boys quarterfinal rounds into two different days will help with scheduling, said Matt Fetsch, executive director of the NDHSAA.

And really just the growth of the girls' game, and the buzz that comes with it, is also a matter of seating, Fetsch said. This was an option that was thrown out and one we have not done in the past. It was overwhelmingly supported by the hockey schools, and I think it's safe to say it's an experiment to see how it works, but something that will be tried in 2025.

The quarter-finals for the boys start on Thursday on the main track. All consolation games are played at a second rink in Grand Forks. The location has not yet been determined, but in all likelihood it will be Eagles Arena, Fetsch said.

Kilgore likes the change, comparing it to the way Minnesota conducts its Class A and AA state hockey tournaments.

I also like the format that Fargo has, but we don't want to lose that tournament in Grand Forks either, Kilgore said. I'm glad we've come to some sort of general consensus on how we can replicate what they've been doing in Fargo over the last few years and make it work in Grand Forks. I think this has been a very good, very good solution.

Boys basketball back at The Betty

Another change the NDHSAA announced was the return of the Class A Region 2 boys basketball tournament to the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

The atmosphere for basketball is second to none, Fetsch said. We've been fortunate to host quite a few region tournaments there over the years, and I think anyone involved in those tournaments as a player or fan would say it would be hard to imagine a better atmosphere find.

The Betty was not available to host a girls or boys basketball tournament in North Dakota this season due to the NCAA calendar, but Fetsch told the Herald in February that it would still be in the mix as a possible venue for the basketball play -offs from 2025.

We knew this would happen eventually, Fetsch said. Next year the calendars will go back to what we consider normal. On the boys' side it was an option to hold a tournament there, so luckily that worked out.

Abby Sharpe

Abby Sharpe has been covering the region and University of North Dakota athletics for the Herald since July 2023. She graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in sports journalism. She enjoys '90s sitcoms, historical fiction, and Quentin Tarantino films. Readers can reach Abby at [email protected].

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