AREA PREP NOTEBOOK: Grand Forks coaches prepare for East Region boys hockey tournament
Home ice is nice. But performance is more important than place to the Grand Forks coaches as they head into next week’s East Region boys hockey tournament.
Grand Forks Central already has clinched a home game in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round. Grand Forks Red River can lock up a home quarterfinal game if it beats Grafton-Park River in a 7:30 game at Purpur Arena tonight.
Central had won three straight and five of its last six, improving to 13-7-0, heading into its home game Friday against Fargo South-Shanley.
“Being on a hot streak, playing your best hockey of the year, is bigger than where you’re playing going into the tournament,” Central coach Grant Paranica said.
Balance has been a big reason for Central’s current run.
Taner Bender has been strong in goal all season. “Taner is steady. He’s given us a chance to win most games,” Paranica said. But Central’s offense isn’t as reliant on one or two lines to get goals as it was earlier in the season.
“We had a lull where it seemed like we couldn’t get more than one or two goals,” Paranica said. “Now it’s execution. We’re doing things better. And we’re getting goals from our third and fourth lines, kids who weren’t getting a lot of points early in the year.”
Red River, after losing three straight and four of its last five, won its last two games and put itself in a position to gain a home quarterfinal game. Jordan Lunski had three goals Thursday in a 7-3 win against West Fargo, the first hat trick of the season for the 12-7-1 Riders.
“Momentum is what you want now, without question,” Red River coach Bill Chase said. “I don’t care what place we get or where we play. I just want us to be playing well, to have everybody on all cylinders.
“We had a little bump, but we’re hitting our stride again.”
After Tuesday’s quarterfinals, the tournament concludes at Purpur Arena in Grand Forks with games Friday and Saturday.
One at a time for EGF
Thief River Falls is the No. 1 seed in the Minnesota Section 8A girls hockey tournament and was first in the final Class A state rankings. East Grand Forks Senior High is No. 2 in both 8A tournament seeding and the state poll.
Senior High coach Jim Scanlan isn’t concerned about another shot at the Prowlers, who have handed the Green Wave their only two losses this season. The 8A semifinals are Monday in Warroad, and Senior High must get past five-time defending 8A champion and No. 7-ranked Warroad.
Senior High plays the Warriors at 8:15 p.m., following the Thief River Falls-Park Rapids semifinal game at 6 p.m.
“We’re not even thinking about a game two (championship) in the tournament,” Scanlan said. “Our first game will be a formidable challenge. Warroad is always strong and they’re always tough to beat, especially on their home ice.”
Both teams have some explosive offensive individuals.
Warroad has three players with more than 35 points in Mariah Gardner, Demi Gardner and Lynn Astrup. Senior High counters with four 35-plus scorers — CoCo Piche, Lexi Mack, Riley Koberinski and, leading the way, Haley Mack (38-34—72).
But both teams are also strong in goal, Dani Knott for the Warriors and Madi Galstad for the Green Wave.
With the top two teams in the state rankings, plus the No. 7 team, “if this isn’t the best section in the state, it’s certainly one of the top two,” Scanlan said.
GF basketball rematches
Central swept Red River the first time the Grand Forks boys and girls basketball teams played this season. The teams meet again Tuesday at Red River, with more on the line than bragging rights.
The Red River boys team is 8-4 and has yet to lose two games in a row. But the other teams are looking for momentum. Entering the weekend, the Central boys are 6-7 after losing three of their last four. Central’s girls (3-10) have lost three straight and four of their last five, while the Red River girls (3-9) have lost seven straight.
“Obviously, the rivalry comes into play any time we play,” Central boys coach Dan Carlson said. “But, this late in the season, games are important for what you’re doing in the standings.
“And you want to get something going, to put together some wins and get a confidence boost. You can use this as a feel-good game when, with a win against your rival, you hope it’s something you can build on.”
The girls game is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Both teams are looking for more offense; Red River (53.6 ppg) is ninth and Central (52.5) is 10th in scoring average in the region.
The boys game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Red River has the big scorer in the city in Chad Bartosh (23.2 ppg). Central has shown more balance with an offense led by Jake Mussman (17.9 ppg) and Jaylon Butler (11.9 ppg).
GF wrestlers eye titles
There isn’t much mystery entering today’s East Region wrestling tournament at Fargo Davies High School.
“The tournament is over (before it starts),” Red River coach Bruce Moe said. “There’s no way West Fargo won’t win. Watching who gets second place will be fun, though. There are a lot of teams that could be in the mix for that.”
The top eight finishers at each weight class advance to state. And, while the team title appears out of reach, both Grand Forks teams have individual title hopes.
Moe said Red River’s top contender is 126-pounder Sean Murphy. “He’s the clear favorite,” said Moe, who also looks for Malek Larimer at 138 and Dawson Zerr at 120 to be strong challengers. “He (Murphy) is wrestling well. But there are a couple guys who will give him good matches.”
Central coach Matt Berglund said Tyler Keener at 113 is the Knights’ best bet to win, with Kyle Terrill (182) and Spencer Oen (152) also expected to challenge. “Tyler has beaten everybody in his weight, and he’s wrestling really well,” Berglund said. “Terrill and Oen have title chances, but they won’t be favorites.”
Grand Forks Red River senior Cole Kringstad, the defending state pole vault champion, has signed a letter of intent to compete in track at Minot State University. . . . Grand Forks Central senior Spencer Meyer has signed a letter of intent to compete in football at Moorhead State University. . . . Central senior Camron Roehl has signed a letter of intent to compete in track at North Dakota State University. . . . East Grand Forks Senior High-Sacred Heart wrestlers Eddie Bushaw (132 pounds), Eli Deziel (170) and Isaac Flores (285) finished second at the Walker Invitational wrestling tournament.