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BOYS HOCKEY: Bender returns to lineup as Knights edge Devils Lake

The Grand Forks Central boys hockey team would have liked to give standout goalie Taner Bender one more game to recovery from an injury. But with two quick goals by Devils Lake late in the first period, the Knights were forced to insert Bender ba...

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Grand Forks Central sophomore Cam Olstad (12) moves the puck up the ice against the defense of Devils Lake's Alec Moser during their high school hockey game Tuesday at Purpur Arena in Grand Forks. Korrie Wenzel/Herald

The Grand Forks Central boys hockey team would have liked to give standout goalie Taner Bender one more game to recovery from an injury.

But with two quick goals by Devils Lake late in the first period, the Knights were forced to insert Bender back into the lineup.

Central needed every one of Bender’s saves.

Nick Lund’s second-period goal stood as the game winner as the Knights held off Devils Lake 3-2 on Tuesday night at Purpur Arena.

“I felt like they beat us,” said Central coach Grant Paranica, whose team is No. 1 in the latest state poll. “They won the stick battles and played better on both ends.”

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Late in the third period, Bender and the Knights had to stave off the final 2 minutes, 30 seconds of a pulled goalie for the Firebirds, who spent the first two minutes of that sequence on the power play.

But Devils Lake only had one shot on net during the final 2:30.

“We have to get the puck to the gritty zones and crash,” first-year Devils Lake coach Jens Stokke said. “That’s where you get your goals. We didn’t get the puck there and get it done.”

Devils Lake dropped to 6-6, while the Knights improved to 8-1-1.

Stokke said the Firebirds didn’t take any consolation in a tight contest against the state’s top-ranked team.

“Encouraging would have been if we had won,” Stokke said. “Central’s No. 1, but I don’t see us any farther behind. We’re right there.”

Central appeared in cruise control early after goals from Grant Johnson and Cam Olstad at 9:21 and 13:51 of the first period.

“I thought the first seven or eight minutes, we played really well,” Paranica said. “Then Devils Lake rallied, and we didn’t play well after that at all.”

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Devils Lake responded with goals from Cole Thompson and Landyn Swenson just more than a minute apart late in the first period.

Thompson, a sophomore defenseman, is the brother of UND defenseman Keaton Thompson.

“I told the kids we had to step up and go hard at them,” Stokke said. “That was the game plan from the start … attack hard and keep going after them.”

Devils Lake goalie Holden Kurtz finished with 28 saves.

Central goalie Jaxon Kriewald, who was starting his third straight game while Bender was injured, ended with six saves before being replaced by Bender to start the second period. Bender stopped all 19 shots he faced.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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