Boys hockey: Riders roar back

Grand Forks Central may have been the team receiving a trophy Tuesday night when the Knights were presented the Gambucci Cup by namesake Serge Gambucci.

Red River's Jared Lothspeich
Red River's Jared Lothspeich (left) and Centrl's Tyler Haug collide during the first period Tuesday night at Purpur Arena in Grand Forks. Herald photo by John Stennes.

Grand Forks Central may have been the team receiving a trophy Tuesday night when the Knights were presented the Gambucci Cup by namesake Serge Gambucci.

But it was Grand Forks Red River who grabbed the evening's biggest prizes. The Roughriders picked up the rivalry win, maintained the top spot in the East Region standings and pushed their winning streak to six games.

Red River received scoring from all three lines and 21 saves from Bryan Nies to beat Central 3-1 at Purpur Arena.

The Roughriders, who improved to 13-4 overall, avenged an 8-2 loss to the Knights in the previous regular-season meeting.

Central received the Gambucci Cup, which goes to the top Greater Grand Forks team in head-to-head matchups, by a matter of goal differential.


Red River, Central and East Grand Forks Senior High each finished with 2-2 records in Cup standings. The Riders would have had to beat the Knights by four or more goals to win the Cup.

But that didn't sour the evening for Nies, who struggled against the Knights on Jan. 4.

"The last game was really rough," Nies said. "That's one of those games that sticks with you. But you have to learn to get over it. You have to stick it in the back of your head.

"I felt good tonight. Our defensemen and forwards did a good job letting Central shoot from the perimeter."

Red River coach Bill Chase wasn't worried about Nies' psyche.

"Bryan's a confident kid," Chase said. "He was ready for tonight. He wasn't worried."

Red River built a 3-0 lead with goals in each period.

Josh Gilbertson made it 1-0 when Blake Holien centered a bouncing puck to the slot at 3:44 of the opening period.


The Riders pushed the lead to 2-0 on Taylor Steen's one-timer on a give from Jordan Love at 10:42 of the middle period.

At 3:36 of the third period, Red River went ahead 3-0 as Casey Fugleberg found the handle on a dish from Alan Zahui, who had made a slick move along the boards to escape a defender and create a 2-on-1 situation.

"We stayed focused and kept going for all three periods," Chase said.

Central made things interesting down the stretch after Alec Lazur finished off a centering pass from Luke Johnson with a little more than five minutes remaining in the third period.

The Knights were unable to make it a one-goal game despite intense pressure on a scrum with 1:59 left. Nies made two more big saves with 1:34 to go on a pair of rebound chances for Johnson.

The Knights pulled goalie Derek Fuller for the final 1:15, but Central couldn't prevent a third-straight loss.

Central, which dropped to 9-6-2, was short-handed against the Riders.

Top line forward Jordy Aamot has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury. The senior is expected back for the postseason.


"For the most part, I thought that was a well-played hockey game," Central coach Tony Bina said. "It was high-tempo, back-and-forth. Red River capitalized on a few of our mistakes, and we didn't bury a few of our chances."

Bina also said, despite the loss, the Knights understand the significance of the Gambucci Cup.

"We take a lot of pride in that," Bina said. "Serge started the program here. We like that it's staying with us."

Red River's Josh Gilbertson
Red River's Josh Gilbertson raises his stick in celebration after scoring Red River's first goal in the first period Tuesday against Grand Forks Central. Herald photo by John Stennes.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

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, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
What To Read Next
Get Local