Big Sky Tourney Kicks Off Wednesday

One thing seems inevitable every season… that you will see Montana in the Big Sky postseason. Sure enough, a few weeks ago the Griz (7-0-1) kept that run going in addition to also claiming the regular season title. Joining them with a bye in the number two spot was Idaho (5-2-1) and bringing up the rear in the sixth and final spot was Idaho State (2-4-2).

Montana is a true staple of the Big Sky Tournament with a nine-year streak of appearances (excluding 2020 Covid season) that dates back to their last missed appearance in 2013 – the final year of the four-team format (the Griz were sixth that year and have been in the top six since their last-place finish in 2009). The regular season title is their ninth in program history.

Since their 1-1 draw at Eastern Washington to open the season the Griz have been essentially untouchable as they rattled off seven consecutive wins with only two goals allowed (2-1 wins against Weber State and at Northern Arizona). Since Idaho went 9-0-1 in 2015 only one other team has gone unbeaten in the Big Sky in those seven seasons… Montana in 2019 (6-0-3).

Skyleigh Thompson (Kalispell, MT) is leading the team on the offensive end of things with six goals (second in league) and four assists with Delaney Lou Schorr not far back at 5 goals (seventh in league) and four assists, but the key is the defense that posted five shutouts in their eight league games. Ashlyn Dvorak (Billings, MT) led the charge, playing every single minute for an incredible 0.44 GAA for the overall season to lead the league. She was also comfortably atop the shutouts table with 11 on the year with Idaho’s Kira Witte second with six.

Idaho is back in the tournament for the third consecutive year as well, repeating as the number two seed. The Vandals have been in the event six times in the last eight. Jadyn Hanks led the team in goals with (tied for seventh in the league) and Margo Schoesler (Spokane, WA) was the assist leader with five (tied for third). They come into the tourney riding a four-game win streak, though the potential semifinal opponent could be Portland State, who handed them one their last loss 2-1. Witte finished the season as the third keeper in the league with a sub-one GAA at 0.88.

The Bengals are hoping 2023 is the turning point for a program that has absolutely struggled since their last appearance in 2014, when they were the fourth seed, and regular season league title in 2012. Kaylyn Buchanan helped them break through with six goals (tied for second in the league) and Rachel Fullmer with her five assists (tied for third).

Northern Arizona won the defending Big Sky Tournament last year as the top seed and represented the league in the NCAA tournament. In both 2020 and 2021, the Big Sky was represented by the Grizzlies. Montana has won the Big Sky Tournament three of the previous five years.

VIEW: Available on ESPN+ (incl on Hulu if you have ESPN package)

Big Sky Tournament – Flagstaff, AZ

First Round – Wednesday November 1
(3) Portland State v (6) Idaho State – 3:00 MST
(4) Northern Arizona v (5) Sacramento State – 6:00 MST

Semifinals – Friday November 3
(2) Idaho v PSU or ISU – 3:00 MST
(1) Montana v NAU or SSU – 6:00 MST

Championship – Sunday November 5 – 1:00 MST