Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

One whirlwind finish

Grand Forks Red River avoided being the victim of the biggest upset in North Dakota state boys high school hockey tournament history, thanks to three goals on its last three shots of the game.

Grand Forks Red River avoided being the victim of the biggest upset in North Dakota state boys high school hockey tournament history, thanks to three goals on its last three shots of the game.

Upstart Williston, the No. 4 seed from the West Region, led No. 1 East seed Red River 2-1 with under five minutes left in Thursday's final quarterfinal game of the state tournament despite 48 Roughrider shots on net at that point.

Then junior forward Nick Schaefer scored twice the last into an empty net and Andrew Vigen potted the game-winning goal at 14 minutes, 48 seconds of the final period as the Roughriders, 22-3, advanced to tonight's semifinal against Devils Lake-Cando with a 4-2 win against Williston.

But until Schaefer worked some magic in tight to tie it at 12:01 of the third period and Vigen sniped a wrister to a small opening on the far side of sensational Williston goalie Zach Boldt (47 saves), a shocking upset was brewing in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Yet Williston coach Dustin Bratlien said he never felt Williston might win. Maybe because the Coyotes were 0-4 in previous first-round state tourney games, or maybe because he knew something about Red River's offense, which averages six goals a game.

ADVERTISEMENT

"They scored three goals on their last three shots," Bratlien said. "We knew eventually that would happen. You just try to control when the big storm is going to come."

Williston, 14-8-2 heading into consolation play, controlled Red River for 46 minutes of the game by packing players in front of Boldt and limiting the Roughriders to perimeter shots for the most part.

Goals by Shawn Erickson at 15:46 of the first period and Cody Rehak 41 seconds into the third period put Williston ahead 2-1, with only Eric Meland scoring 25th goal of the season between the two Williston goals in reply for Red River.

With five minutes left, it appeared Engelstad Arena was to be the site of yet another great tournament upset, next to Holy Cross' monstrous upset of No. 1-ranked Minnesota 11 months earlier in an NCAA regional.

Then Schaefer slid in a shot for his seventh goal of the season at 12:01 and Vigen picked his corner for his 19th goal past Boldt's glove hand for the winning goal at 14:48.

Red River finished with a 51-10 advantage in shots on goal, including a 22-2 edge in the first period that ended with Williston leading 1-0.

"I'm not displeased with the whole game we played," Red River coach Matt Malm said. "If I say that, then that doesn't give credit to where credit is deserved, over there (Williston). A lot of our frustration had to do with the way they were playing. I'm not going to say it was a lousy game by us. I think that's a cop-out."

Red River gave Williston a pair of 5-on-3 power plays in the second period, one for 57 seconds, another for 46 seconds. The Roughriders blanked Williston on seven power plays and converted 1 of 2 of its own as specialty team play figured huge in the outcome.

ADVERTISEMENT

How worried was Malm?

"Pretty," was Malm's one-word reply. "When they got that goal in the third period and we weren't generating any kind of great scoring chances, you started to wonder, you know?"

The two goals by Schaefer and the winner by Vigen made certain that the Roughriders didn't lose.

"Before the third period, we said to the players don't dread adversity, because going through it only makes you better," Malm, said. "I think that was a gut check by all of us."

Schaefer said Red River's strategy was to keep shooting. "We tried to keep our shots coming," he said. "Their goalie was playing pretty well. We had to keep pounding away, and hopefully we'd get a couple of bounces go in."

Schaefer said he tried not to think he might be on the wrong end of a history-making upset.

"We just had to keep our poise coming down the stretch," Schaefer said. "It's not like we played that bad. Props to them, they played well. They forced us to the outside, and their goalie was sucking in rebounds pretty well. He wasn't kicking much out."

The kick instead came from Red River with some close-in goals from Schaefer and Vigen finally taking the Roughriders off the edge of disaster.

ADVERTISEMENT

Schaefer fought off panic, too.

"Obviously you're thinking panic, but you try to keep your poise, because fear is contagious on the bench," Schaefer said. "You don't want to be showing fear, otherwise it will spread like wildfire."

What To Read Next
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.
Crisis pregnancy centers received almost $3 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. Soon, sharing only medically accurate information could be a prerequisite for funding.
The Grand Forks Blue Zones Project, which hopes to make Grand Forks not just a healthier city but a closer community, is hosting an event on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Empire Arts Center from 3-5 p.m.
A bill being considered by the North Dakota Legislature would require infertility treatment for public employees — a step that could lead to requiring private insurance for the costly treatments.