Opposites take the ice when Grand Forks Central and Red River renew their boys high school hockey rivalry.
The Grand Forks teams meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Purpur Arena. Central is 12-3-0 and sits atop East Region standings. Red River is 8-3-2 and third in the region.
“We’re almost opposites,’’ Central coach Grant Parnica said. “They play very well defensively. We’ve really been good at times on offense, although we have also been sporadic at times.’’
Central also is stingy giving up scores with Kolby Elseth (1.36 goals-against average, .925 save percentage) in goal. But the Knights have six players with 15 or more points, led by Braden Panzer (10 goals-20 assists), William Lawson-Body (13-14) and Chase Spicer (8-18). Central has outscored opponents 74-21.
The Roughriders have allowed only 25 goals. Nick Antonenko (5-0-0, 1.40 GAA, .908 save percentage) and Noah Burger (3-3-2, 1.93, .904) share time in goal. Red River has allowed just five goals in its last five games, going 4-0-1.
The leading scorers for Red River are Justin Wasvick (5-7) and Mason Thingvold (8-4).
Central is in the rare position of having lost two games in a row. The Knights won the last three straight titles, going a combined 76-1-2 in those three seasons.
Both teams play before the rivalry game. Central plays host to Minot at 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25. On Tuesday, Central is at Devils Lake and Red River plays host to Fargo South-Shanley in 7:30 p.m. games.
“We have to be better than we’ve been,’’ Paranica said. “We have two games before Thursday to work on improving. We’ve struggled trying to make plays. We’ve made some poor decisions with the puck and haven’t played well as a team defensively.’’
The Central-Red River game is one of two Gambucci Cup games for Red River next week, as they play a 2:30 p.m. game at East Grand Forks Senior High next Saturday.
Wave add ranked team
East Grand Forks Senior High’s boys basketball schedule became tougher this week.
The Green Wave, 13-0 and seventh in this week’s Minnesota Class AA rankings, will play Minneapolis North (8-4, No. 4 ranked in Class AA) in a 6 p.m. game Feb. 15 in East Grand Forks.
The matchup came about because each team lost a game on its schedule due to inclement weather and was looking for a game.
“They put it out on Twitter, saying they were looking for a game. I saw it, got back to them and they agreed to come here,’’ Senior High coach Josh Perkerewicz said.
“We have to play teams like that to prepare for playoff time. The gym will be packed. The atmosphere will be electric. You don’t get a basketball game of that magnitude very often. We’re excited about the challenge.’’
Also on Feb. 15, the Green Wave boys hockey team plays host to St. Cloud Cathedral at 3:15 p.m. That game twice has been postponed by weather. Cathedral is first first and Senior High is fifth in this week’s Class A rankings.
“We went from nothing going on to a pretty big day,’’ Senior High athletic director Scott Koberinski said. “Talk about a good sports day? It will be a huge day for our teams.’’
Gymnasts rebuild quickly
The Grand Forks gymnastics team had a lot of unknowns after graduating three seniors from last season’s team and having several other quality gymnasts not return.
The team has bounced back. If the state individual tournament was to be held now, Grand Forks would have nine qualifiers. That includes three athletes who have top-15 rankings -- Lauren Swanson (11th in beam), Delani Barrett (11th in floor) and Melody Nguyen (13th in floor).
“It’s been a pretty quick rebuild,’’ KnightRiders coach Courtney Engel said. “We had girls who were given an opportunity to compete on the varsity and they’ve capitalized on it.
“They’ve definitely exceeded expectations. I was hoping we’d have maybe four or five state qualifiers. It’s been really exciting.’’