Central ends regular season unbeaten by handling Bismarck Century
The only thing standing in the way of Grand Forks Central's unbeaten regular season was West Region No. 2 seed Bismarck Century, a team coming into the matchup on an 11-game unbeaten stretch.
On Saturday night, the Knights proved they're still the team to beat in North Dakota, and the Patriots showed why they're considered perhaps Central's top challenger for the crown.
The Knights wrapped up the regular season by holding off Century 3-1 at Purpur Arena.
Central improved to 19-0, beating opponents 150-16.
"It's a great way to go into the EDC," Central coach Grant Paranica said. "That's a quality hockey team. It's a great way to prepare for the playoffs."
Century, thanks to standout goaltending from Matthew Schmidt (26 saves), stayed close and made it 2-1 with a Jadon Remer goal at 5:02 of the third period.
But the Knights responded just 19 seconds later.
Central's Cole Wigestrand finished off a William Lawson-Body pass to reclaim the 3-1 advantage.
"We just wanted to get the momentum shifted back," Wigestrand said. "I thought it was a good test for us especially going into the playoffs. I thought we definitely went through some adversity but we battled through it and got better from it."
It was Wigestrand's seventh goal of the year.
"Tremendous response," Paranica said. "We talked on the bench on how to answer it. That's what you expect out of your leaders ... to be able to do that instead of it going south and being on your heels."
Central, which hasn't lost since Jan. 2, 2018, will host Grafton-Park River, a 4-3 winner over West Fargo Sheyenne in an East Region play-in game, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the region tournament at Purpur Arena.
Against Century, the Knights had to overcome 16 minutes of penalties, which led to two full, two-minute 5-on-3 power plays.
The Patriots failed to score on more than eight minutes of power plays and Central's Cole Hanson scored shorthanded at 15:06 of the second period.
Hanson's goal made it 2-0, as Central defenseman Brandon Holt scored on a power play when his shot from the point navigated traffic to make it 1-0 at 16:01 of the first.
Central goalie Aaron Nielsen finished with 13 saves.
"I thought we played in spurts," Century coach Troy Olson said. "Usually, when we drop the puck against an east team, we have to take time to adjust. But this is the sixth time now (against an east team), and I was happy with how we started. They're just relentless on offense. You take a shift off and it's in the back of the net. That's what happened. It's good experience for our guys. Obviously we didn't play flawless or great but we played hard enough."
GF Central 3,
Bismarck Century 1
First period—1. GFC, Brandon Holt (Lucas Kanta, Cole Hanson) 16:01
Second period—2. GFC, Hanson (Kanta, Holt) 15:06
Third period—3. BC, Jadon Reimer 5:02; 4. GFC, Cole Wigestrand (William Lawson-Body, Parker Stroh) 5:21
Goalie saves—GFC: Aaron Nielsen 3-5-5—13; BC: Matthew Schmidt 5-6-15—26