With a 3-1 victory last Saturday in the North Dakota state boys hockey championship game, Grand Forks Central has now won three consecutive state titles and hasn’t been beaten by an in-state opponent in the last 71 tries.
When will the latest Knights dynasty come to an end?
The play of Central’s fourth line -- made up of a freshman and two sophomores -- during the state tournament can’t give the rest of the state a lot of optimism.
Freshman Cole Spicer and sophomores Chase Spicer and Braden Panzer were one of the Knights’ strongest units during state.
“A lot of potential,” Central senior forward Lucas Kanta said of the fourth line. “They’ve shown from the get-go they’re ready to play. They have everything it takes to be good in high school hockey. They’re all smart hockey players. They have hockey sense. You can tell they’re going to be good players.”
In Central’s 14-0 win over Mandan in the state quarterfinals, Cole Spicer scored the Knights’ first goal on an assist from Chase Spicer. The team’s third goal was Panzer from Chase Spicer. Later in the game, Cole Spicer scored his second on assists to Chase Spicer and Panzer.
In the semifinals, the Knights beat Bismarck High when the fourth line again scored the team’s first goal. Panzer scored from Cole Spicer.
“They all have good skill,” Central senior forward Cole Hanson said. “Obviously, they’re not there physically yet because they’re younger. They’re going to be good someday. They’re already really good, but they’re going to be even better in a few years.”
Cole Spicer finished the year with 14 goals and 11 assists, while Chase Spicer had five goals and 12 assists and Panzer ended with seven goals and 11 assists.
“They make plays and see plays happening,” Central coach Grant Paranica said. “That’s the biggest thing. We’re starting with some smart hockey players there and now it’s just about getting them experience at a bigger, stronger level.”
The Knights will lose seven of their top eight scorers -- led by tournament most valuable player Kanta and Mr. Hockey Hanson.
The Knights, though, will stay have a strong base in which to build -- led by state championship game star William Lawson-Body, who scored twice in the third period against Davies.
Lawson-Body, Will Howard and defenseman Tucker Hodgson are expected to be the senior leaders next season, supplemented with the talented, young fourth line.
Blaize Miller and Joey Kennelly also saw regular shifts on Central’s third line as sophomores.
The Knights will also be starting over in net and need defenders Adam Arnold, Brandon McGarry and Peter Loyland to step into roles vacated by Hunter Bjorge and Brandon Holt.
North Dakota hasn’t seen a four-peat in boys hockey since Grand Forks Red River did it from 1987-90.