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Grand Forks Central's Austin Johnson tries to get his stick on a loose puck in front of Mandan goalie Sawyer Schmidt and Carter Hanson Thursday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

BOYS STATE HOCKEY: Grand Forks Central wins 5-2 against Mandan

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Just two minutes and 33 seconds into the state quarterfinal game, Grand Forks Central found itself down 1-0.

Knights goaltender Taner Bender made a block save, but Colton Murphy was there for the rebound and goal on an open shot from the slot.

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“It landed right on his stick,” Bender said. “He had the whole net open to shoot at. But I wasn’t too worried then.”

And for good reason.

Central broke open a close game with three goals in the second half of the second period. The Knights went on to a 5-2 win against Mandan on Thursday in the North Dakota boys high school hockey tournament.

“The first goal was important for us to settle down,” Mandan coach Matt Mullally said. But, he added, “in the second period we couldn’t match (Central’s) energy level.”

Central pulled even on a Cam Olstad goal at 7:45 of the first and it stayed 1-1 until the final 8:33 of the second, when the Knights broke loose for three goals to break the game open.

The key goal, Central coach Grant Paranica said, was the tiebreaker.

Hyatt Hruska broke the 1-1 tie at the 8:27 mark. Christen Seng in the corner found Hruska open in the right circle, and the senior buried a quick wrist shot.

“We were getting chances but we weren’t getting goals,” Paranica said. “But Hruska, Seng and (Zach) Walz had a real strong shift. Walz started (the goal) by putting pressure on the puck. Seng comes up with the puck and makes a great pass and Hruska finishes.

“That seemed to get us going. We started getting goals like we normally do.”

Kaden Monette scored on a back-side rebound 3:06 later, then Cole Kirchoffner’s score from close range gave the Knights a 4-1 lead after two periods.

“Once they got up 4-1, it made it tough sledding for us,” Mullally said. “We don’t have those one or two really gifted kids who can score.”

Kirchoffner scored on a power play for the Knights and Chandler Bondeson had a goal for the Braves in the third.

Bender finished with only 14 saves while Mandan’s Sawyer Schmidt stopped 30 shots.

“It wasn’t too hard,” Bender said of his night. “The defense did a good job of keeping everything outside.”

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