BOYS HOCKEY: Knights rally to top Packers
West Fargo has been a tough puzzle to solve for Grand Forks Central this season. Going into Friday's game, Central had yet to defeat the Packers despite outshooting them 98-47 in two regular-season contests. The third time proved to be the charm ...
West Fargo has been a tough puzzle to solve for Grand Forks Central this season.
Going into Friday’s game, Central had yet to defeat the Packers despite outshooting them 98-47 in two regular-season contests.
The third time proved to be the charm as the Knights upended West Fargo 5-3 in the semifinals of the East Region Tournament at Purpur Arena.
However, the Packers didn’t make it an easy task for the two-time reigning East Region-champion Knights.
They got off to a good start, scoring 38 seconds into the game when senior defenseman Grant Ellenson jumped up into the play to create a 3-on-1 opportunity. From there all Ellenson had to do was crash the net and tap in a perfect pass from Ben Dirks to give the Packers the early 1-0 lead.
Eight minutes later the Packers added another goal in a similar fashion. This time the Packers scored on the power play and it was James Beatty who scored the easy tap-in thanks to a backhanded pass from Nick Salquist.
The Packers held the 2-0 lead going into the second period. But Central would score three second-period goals in a span of six minutes to take the lead going into the final period of play.
To make matters worse, it was in that same span of time when the Packer’s Ellenson, a four-year regular on the blue line, was injured.
Judd Caulfield got the Knights on the score sheet at 8:21 of the second period when he banged home a rebound that was generated off the stick of line-mate Cam Olstad.
The state’s leading scorer, Grant Johnson would put up his team-leading 28th goal of the season two minutes later to knot the score at two apiece.
At 14:45 Olstad concluded Central’s second-period splurge off a terrific individual effort. Olstad toe-dragged around a West Fargo defenseman and put a shot up and over the glove of Packers netminder Coleton Espe.
Central would end the second period having outshot the Packers 21-7 and take the 3-2 lead going into the third.
“We just had to simplify our game,” said Central coach Grant Paranica. “We were thinking too much in the first period. We just had to get back to moving our feet and getting pucks to the net.”
Noah Cieklinski put a shot through traffic that beat Espe to stretch the lead to two.
However, West Fargo’s leading scorer, Stone Sandoval, was left all alone in front of the Knights net and executed on another beautiful pass from Dirks to keep the pesky Packers alive.
Both teams would go back-and-forth for the next five minutes of play until Boe Bjorge scored the game’s final goal to seal the Knights berth in next week’s state tournament.
“Our goal was to gain a berth at the state tournament,” said Paranica. “In post season play it’s hard to beat a good team like West Fargo. I thought they played a really
good game and took advantage of their opportunities.”
“Anybody can beat anybody in the East Region this year,” said West Fargo coach Tim
Capouch. “I thought tonight was a good high school hockey game. We just have to
get a good night’s rest and go out and compete tomorrow.”
West Fargo will take on Fargo South in a loser-out contest where the winner will
advance to the state tournament. The Knights will look to capture their third
consecutive East Region title when they play Grand Forks Red River in the final at 5 p.m. Saturday.
West Fargo dropped to 18-4-1 while Central improved to 17-5-1.