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Grand Forks Central's Casey Johnson (5) collides with Minot's Cade Ennis (15) in the first period of their semi-final game of the North Dakota state high school hockey tournament in Grand Forks Friday.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD

BOYS STATE HOCKEY: Knights score 4-1 win against Minot

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History said Grand Forks Central was the favorite when it met Minot in the semifinals of the North Dakota boys high school hockey tournament.

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History was right.\The Knights scored a 4-1 win against Minot on Friday to advance to the championship game of the state tournament. Central plays Bismarck, a 7-1 semifinal winner against West Fargo, at approximately 8 p.m. today for the state championship.

Central is bidding to win its first state championship since 2010, when it beat the Demons 3-0 in the title game. Bismarck has never won a state hockey championship..

Central has dominated the Minot-Central series. Friday's win was the 39th in the 43 times the teams have met. Central is 10-1 against Minot in state tournament games.

"It means absolutely nothing,'' Central coach Grant Paranaica said of past domination. "Every year is different.''

Casey Johnson got the big score for the Knights, breaking a 1-1 tie in the third period.Minot goalie Breydan Effertz stopped the Knights on a breakaway. But Central retrieved the puck near the end boards. Johnson wound up with a puck and an open look in the slot, which he buried with 5:42 remaining. "Johnson has a great shot from there,'' Paranica said.Minot had a power-play opportunity in the final five minutes, but was held without a shot on goal by the Central defense. "Their defensive corps is as good a group as there is in the state,'' Minot coach Chad Burckhard said of the Knights. "We're a pretty good offensive team. We just couldn't generate anything.''

Central iced the win in the final 1:29 with empty-net goals by Ryan Griggs and Kaden Monette.Effertz wound up with 35 saves, while Central's Taner Bender had only 14."It was a good defensive effort on our part,'' Paranica said. "We kept a lot of their shots outside. When they get opportunities, they're quite dangerous. But I think we limited them pretty well.''Said Burckhard: "Brayden had a great game. He was the one shining star for us.''

Minot jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period at the 11:01 mark. Quinn Fuchs took control of the puck at the blue line, went in on a one-on-one situation and buried a shot from the left circle.Central pulled even with a power-play goal in a second period that ended with a 1-1 tie. Monette got the puck in the neutral zone and led a 3-on-2 break. Monette, skating up the middle, never gave up the puck, wristing in a goal from the left circle with 5:52 left in the period.

The title game will be the second meeting of the season between Central and the Demons. Bismarck edged Central 2-1 in the teams' lone meeting this season.
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Greg DeVillers
(701) 780-1128
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