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N.D. EAST REGION HOCKEY TOURNAMENT EVENING GAMES: Central, Grafton-Park River advance to semifinals

Grand Forks Central coach Tony Bina referred to the Fargo North boys hockey team as a thorn in his side all season. The Spartans had taken three points from the Knights in two regular-season games.

Grand Forks Central coach Tony Bina referred to the Fargo North boys hockey team as a thorn in his side all season. The Spartans had taken three points from the Knights in two regular-season games.

But in the quarterfinals of the East Region tournament, Seth Lang was the thorn in Fargo North's side.

The sophomore goalie made 24 saves to record his first shutout of the season. His play sparked Central to a 2-0 win over North on Thursday in Purpur Arena.

In the other evening quarterfinal, Grafton-Park River defeated West Fargo 5-0. Central plays Grafton-Park River at 8:15 tonight in the semifinals in Purpur Arena. North plays West Fargo in a loser-out game at 2:15 p.m.

With 53 seconds left, North pulled its goalie for one last charge.

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"I knew I had to stand big," said Lang, whose team lost to North by one goal and tied the Spartans during the regular season.

Lang turned away the Spartans' last chance. Then with four seconds left, Knights defenseman Danny Ray stole the puck in the neutral zone and scored an empty-netter with 2.8 seconds left for the final margin.

"We played well in our own end," said Lang, who came up big late in the second period while the Knights fought off a pair of power plays, including a brief 5-on-3. "We were able to capitalize on a couple of chances."

The game's key play came early in the second period. In the neutral zone, Central forward Joe Gibbs chipped the puck off the boards ahead to Matt Klockmann, who came in on a 2-on-1 break with Brenden Gust. Klockmann's blast from the left side hit off goalie Jacob Labernik's shoulder. The puck bounced over his shoulder and into the crease, where Gust scored for a 1-0 lead at 4:13 of the second period.

That was all the scoring Central needed.

"(Lang) made some real big saves," Bina said. "He's now had two real good games (in a row)."

Labernik finished with 23 saves for the Spartans, who dropped to 6-14-1 overall.

"In the third period, 5-on-5, we had a difficult time," North coach Jay Erickson said. "We didn't take advantage of our power plays."

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North dropped to 6-14-1.

Grafton-Park River 5, West Fargo 0: Entering the third period, West Fargo coach Ross Richards knew the opening 1:42 of power-play advantage for Grafton-Park River likely would decide his team's fate.

Grafton-Park River's Chad Demers proved Richards right just 54 seconds into the final period. Demers' second goal, which came on a power play, sparked Grafton-Park River to a quarterfinal win over West Fargo.

"In the third period, we started to get back on the right track," Spoilers coach Jay Haugland said. "We need to continue to play good hockey. We should be peaking at this time of the year."

The Spoilers pulled away quickly in the third. Demers made it 3-0 when Spoilers defenseman Ryan Hills brought the puck into the zone on the right side and left it to the right circle for Demers, who buried it top shelf 54 seconds into the final period.

"We don't score a lot of goals so to go down 3-0 to Grafton is tough," Richards said. "That's a big hill to climb."

The Spoilers then made it 4-0 when Jordan Lutovsky found Tyler Lindell out front for a goal at 9:16 of the third. Cody Boyle scored at 11:18 for the final margin.

Haugland, though, wasn't completely pleased with his team's effort.

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"We're definitely a better hockey team than what we saw," said Haugland, whose team improved to 18-4. "It's hard to get into a flow with nine penalties."

The bright spot for the Packers was goalie Kirby Keller, who made 31 saves.

"(Keller) played outstanding," Haugland said. "The game could've been over early. The kid is a class act."

The Packers dropped to 4-15-2.

Eric Monsebroten made 17 stops for the Spoilers.

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