FARGO -- There was no underdog magic Saturday night at Scheels Arena.
Heavy favorite Grand Forks Central capped one of the most dominant seasons in recent North Dakota high school hockey history by securing back-to-back-to-back state championships.
William Lawson-Body scored two third-period goals to lead the Knights to a 3-1 win over Fargo Davies in the state title game.
“I think this one feels the best because our job is done here,” said Central senior Lucas Kanta, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “We did everything we could at Central.”
The Knights ended the season 25-0-0, captured a 28th state championship in program history and beat an in-state opponent for the 71st-straight time.
Central, who outscored opponents 195-24 this season, became the first team since Grand Forks Red River in 1996-98 to win three consecutive state titles.
“It adds to the great history Central has had and all the players who came through to work their tails off to achieve the ultimate goal of a state championship,” Lawson-Body said. “We’re really happy with how we did it.”
Davies, which lost to Central for the fourth time this season, came up just short while playing in the program’s first state championship game. The Eagles ended the year 18-9-0.
“We grinded as hard as we could,” Davies interim coach Dean Wilson said. “We worked hard against a great team. We wanted to make it interesting to the end, and I thought we did.”
Davies goalie Jared Winter made 49 saves to keep the Eagles within striking distance most of the game.
“We talked between periods that if we kept going that they couldn’t stay with us,” Kanta said. “Eventually, we broke through.”
The Knights broke through in the second. Central defender Tucker Hodgson, who was named to the all-tournament team, tried to get a shot through traffic, but the puck caught up in Kyler Briske’s skates in front.
Briske was able to corral the puck at the top of the crease and beat Winter for a 1-0 lead at 10:13 of the second.
Lawson-Body gave the Knights breathing room 22 seconds into the third. On the power play, all-tournament team defender Hunter Bjorge pinched from his defensive spot to behind the net. His pass deflected off the skate of a Davies player and to Lawson-Body on the doorstep for a 2-0 lead early in the third.
“We thought (the power play to start the third) was huge,” Wilson said. “But I looked up and saw all that time (left in the power play to start the third) and that’s a long car ride against these guys. The goal was a fluky bounce and that’s hockey. What do you do?”
Lawson-Body, who finished the season with 20 goals, struck again as the Knights took a 3-0 lead. At 5:30 of the third, Cole Wigestrand left a pass to a trailing Lawson-Body, who fired it past Winter.
“(Lawson-Body) was huge,” said Central senior Cole Hanson, who was named Mr. Hockey after the game. “He was buzzing all night, and it was bound to come on his stick. He shows up in the big games.”
At 6:17 of the third, Davies standout junior forward and all-tournament selection Cade Stibbe scored on a rush to trim the lead to 3-1.
The Eagles pulled Winter with a minute left but couldn’t register many good looks with the extra attacker.
“All the championships are special in their own way,” said Central coach Grant Paranica, who was named Coach of the Year. “It’s a great feeling. That’s what athletes play for.”
Second period -- 1. GFC, Kyler Briske 10:13
Third period -- 2. GFC, William Lawson-Body (Hunter Bjorge) :22; 3. GFC, Lawson-Body (Cole Wigestrand, Brandon Holt) 5:30; 4. FD, Cade Stibbe (Isaac Balvitsch) 6:17
Goalie saves -- FD: Jared Winter 18-17-14 -- 49; GFC: Aaron Nielsen 7-7-1 -- 15