BOYS HOCKEY: Central edges Red River 1-0 in OT; qualifies for state hockey tournament
Austin Johnson had only three goals in Grand Forks Central's first 22 games this season. Goal No. 4 came Friday night, and it was the Knights' biggest of the season to date. The junior wing's goal 2:40 into overtime gave Central a 1-0 win against...
Austin Johnson had only three goals in Grand Forks Central’s first 22 games this season.
Goal No. 4 came Friday night, and it was the Knights’ biggest of the season to date.
The junior wing’s goal 2:40 into overtime gave Central a 1-0 win against Grand Forks Red River in the semifinals of the East Region boys high school hockey tournament at Purpur Arena.
The win qualifies Central (16-7-0) for the state tournament for the first time since 2011. Red River (13-9-1) meets Fargo Davies at noon today in a loser-out, state-qualifier game. Central plays the Grafton-Park River/West Fargo late semifinal winner in the region title game at 5 p.m. today.
Hudson Warner set up Johnson’s game-winner with a shot from the point. There was a scrum in front of the net. The puck rolled out to Johnson, who was open and set in the high slot. The third-line wing’s slap shot from 12 feet out slid through a crowd and into the net.
“It wasn’t a hard shot,” Johnson said. “It just sort of knuckleballed in. It was sort of a lucky shot. The puck was just laying there on the ice for me.
“It was my biggest goal this year.”
Central coach Grant Paranica called it more of right place, right time.
“We tell the kids any time you have a shot, put it up,” Paranica said. “He was in a pure scoring area and put it on the net.
“Part of goal scoring is being in the right place. Some guys have a sense for the puck. Austin has that.”
That ended a game in which there were no penalties and the goalies combined for 60 saves.
“It was a goal-tenders’ battle,” Paranica said. “There were lots of good shots on goal and lots of follow-up chances. But they were brick walls.”
Both Red River goalie Aaron Sauve and Central goalie Taner Bender finished with 30 saves. Both teams were close to scores - Paranica said his team had three shots that hit the bar and Red River coach Bill Chase said his team had three shots that were inches away from a score.
“That was the best two-goalie performance I’ve seen in a game in a long time,” Chase said. “Both of them were in total command. They were both steady and they both made some outstanding saves.”
While Central locked up a state berth, Red River faces the challenge of bouncing back after narrow loss.
“You can go at it two ways,” Chase said. “You can think you played your heart out and you have nothing left, or you were so close that you’ll coming out playing with a vengeance. We’ll come out with a vengeance.”