Bottineau-Rugby 19U hockey players finished a memorable year at the North Dakota Amateur Hockey Association State Tournament in Langdon March 7, and they’ve already set their sights for next season.
The 19U girls team finished seventh out of 10 teams in the league. One player, Bottineau High senior Madison Hiatt, will leave the team when she graduates in May. However, Rugby High freshmen players Haylee Jundt and Brooklyn Bartsch said they’re eager to return.
Both said they would remember this year’s season as “fun.”
Jundt said she would also remember a heartwarming display of good sportsmanship from the Langdon Blades when they faced them on the ice March 6.
The Blades presented Jundt with a customized blanket embroidered with her name and team number.
“They were celebrating my two years cancer-free,” said Jundt, who had been diagnosed with Stage 2A Hodgkins lymphoma in 2018. “It felt pretty special that they gave a gift to me,” Jundt added.
“I’ve been doing good,” Jundt said of her health. “COVID wasn’t a problem. I just had to be careful around different places.”
Jundt brought her toughness against cancer to the team, where she plays as a defender. “I could be as tough as anyone else,” she said. “I spent a lot of time in the penalty box. I like to get pretty physical out there.”
Jundt’s teammate, center Brooklyn Bartsch, said she had positive memories from hockey this year, too.
The NDAHA named Bartsch and Bottineau High student Madison Thompson to the 2021 All-State Team. Bartsch scored an impressive 30 points for her team during the year.
Bartsch also placed as a top cross country runner in the state for the North Dakota Class B Champion Rugby Panthers last fall.
“It’s fun,” Bartsch said of hockey. “I don’t get as many penalties as her,” she added with a laugh, glancing toward Jundt. “It feels like it’s more of a team sport than cross country.”
“I have no clue how many goals I got this season,” Bartsch added with a modest shrug.
Both Jundt and Bartsch said players from Bottineau and Rugby had good chemistry on the team.
“We got along with them,” Jundt said of her teammates. “We played 12U with them before, so we played with some of the girls.”
Bartsch said she and her younger teammates felt challenges from their competing teams, many of which come from larger cities such as Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks. “Playing seniors and playing against players older than us” also posed a challenge to the 19U girls, according to Bartsch. “We were used to playing against teams that were our age and not two or three years older.”
“The bigger towns have more kids so they have three or four lines,” Jundt added. “At one point in the year, we had five forwards and two or three on the bench. We played Grand Forks, West Fargo and Bismarck, and they have huge teams.”
Despite the challenges, both players said they have high hopes for next season.
“I hope we place better in the state tournament,” Bartsch said.
Jundt agreed. “I hope we play better as a team and work harder to get a better seed at state and finish out better than this year,” she said.