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Heath Hotzler, Published March 01 2009

North defends its title: Spartans coach resigns after team collects championship

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Fargo North gave coach Dave Bjugson a fitting farewell on Saturday.

The Spartans defeated Bismarck 2-1 to capture their second consecutive North Dakota girls hockey title at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Bjugson’s final game on the bench.

“It’s absolutely the perfect ending,” said Bjugson,

who unexpectedly announced to his team before the championship game that he would resign after seven years and four state titles at North.

A tearful Bjugson said after the game he was stepping down to seek new challenges in coaching. The decision had little to do with a recent flap over state tournament accommodations that hit just before the Spartans were to begin their title defense, Bjugson said.

Spartan players appeared to take the news hard.

After playing a starring role in the Spartans’ title defense, sophomore goaltender Chelsey Sitzmann broke down as she talked about her coach.

“He’s a good guy,” Sitzmann said. “He’s been there for us the whole way. … He’s definitely the cornerstone of (North’s program). He’s a pretty big deal and a great coach.”

North continued its trend of fast starts by taking a 2-0 first-period lead.

After defense dominated much of opening 10 minutes, freshman forward Mara Teschendorf put the Spartans ahead 1-0 with a goal at 9:59 of the first period.

Teschendorf, who finished the tournament with five goals, wristed a shot though the legs of Blizzard goaltender Kasandra Cariveau.

Junior Molly Grundysen grabbed a loose puck near the boards, and pushed another goal through the legs of Cariveau at 15:40 to give North a 2-0 advantage.

The Spartans raced to 2-0 first-period leads in each of the tournament’s three games, letting them coast the rest of the way with breathing room. North earned a 6-0 win against Dickinson in the first round, and won 5-0 against Grand Forks in the semifinals.

“It was the same thing all weekend,” Bjugson said. “It was great team defense, and Chelsea (Sitzmann) had another great game.”

Sitzmann played a major role in the Spartans’ tournament dominance.

The sophomore was rarely out of position as she ended the tournament with 58 saves in three games.

Sitzmann and the Spartans allowed just four goals in the final 10 games of the season.

“She could play on some boys teams,” Bjugson said. “She’s fundamentally sound. I thought it was going to be shutout No. 11 (for North this season). It ended up about 10 and a half.”

Cariveau settled down in the second period, stopping all 11 shots she faced to keep the Blizzard within striking distance.

Cariveau entered the game with the tournament lowest save percentage at .744. She allowed five goals in each of Bismarck’s wins.

But the sophomore was up to the task Saturday.

Cariveau was steady under an onslaught of North shot attempts. She finished with 24 saves.

With the goaltender pulled, Bismarck’s Lauren Kringstad blistered a slap shot past Sitzmann to make the score 2-1 with 13 seconds left in the third period.

Bismarck’s top line of Maddy Gendreau, Laura Maddock and Samantha Harris led the state with 87 combined goals in 25 games this season.

But the Spartans were always around the puck Saturday, poking and pushing with their sticks to limit quality offensive chances.

Bismarck’s Kevin Mahon was named the coach of the year. Rachel Hennessy of Williston was selected senior player of the year.

“They are a solid club,” Mahon said. “They pick up the right people and they don’t make mistakes.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, FN, Teschendorf (Boetel, Brenneman), 9:59. 2, FN, Grundysen, 15:40.

SECOND PERIOD: No scoring.

THIRD PERIOD: Kringstad (Hoffer, Maddock), 16:47.

SAVES: FN, Sitzmann 10-7-9—26. B, Cariveau 9-11-4—24.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found

at www.areavoices.com