BOYS STATE HOCKEY: Bismarck scores late to down Central in state semifinals
A family connection has sent Bismarck High to the North Dakota state boys hockey championship game for the fourth time in eight years. T.J. Irey found cousin Cullen Irey for the game-winning goal as the Demons beat Grand Forks Central 4-3 in the ...
A family connection has sent Bismarck High to the North Dakota state boys hockey championship game for the fourth time in eight years.
T.J. Irey found cousin Cullen Irey for the game-winning goal as the Demons beat Grand Forks Central 4-3 in the semifinals of the state tournament Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The Demons, the No. 1 seed from the West Region, advance to the title game to face the winner of West Fargo and Grand Forks Red River at 7 Saturday.
“The kids come in and a state championship is their goal from Day 1,” Bismarck High coach Mike Peluso said. “It’s certainly mine. I’m hoping the team we’ve seen the last month comes out of their shell (tonight).”
With 1 minute, 51 seconds left, junior T.J. Irey picked up a loose puck behind the Central net and centered to senior Cullen Irey for the winner.
“T.J. was fortunate to get that sucker back because he was working hard,” Cullen Irey said. “I had a wide-open net.”
Central (18-7-1) pulled its goalie out of a timeout with 41.7 seconds left, but Demons goalie Josh Bring made all the saves down the stretch to preserve the win. Bring’s toughest save in the final moments came on a Nick Lund rebound attempt after Bring couldn’t corral a Grant Johnson shot with 22 seconds left.
The Knights dominated possession the final two periods, but the Demons took advantage of the late opportunity.
“First, we didn’t get the puck out of the zone and didn’t have a weakside winger pick up the guy down the slot,” Central coach Grant Paranica said. “We didn’t have our head on a swivel, and they managed to get a shot off.”
Central might have controlled play late, but the Demons came out hot in the first period. Bismarck scored two goals five seconds apart on its first two shots of the game.
Ben Yantes scored at 1:59 of the first on a shot from the left point and T.J. Irey followed with a goal on a shot from the right point that beat Central freshman goalie Kaleb Johnson.
“We told our guys early to get shots on this kid and get him upstairs,” Peluso said. “Watching him last night, we knew we wanted to get them up high. We figured he would get better and track shots as the game went on, and he did.”
The Knights came back behind a goal from Cam Olstad at 9:57 of the first and two from Johnson, one in the second and one in the opening minute of the third.
“We got back on our heels big time,” Paranica said. “We regained our composure. I thought we played really well the last two periods, but their goalie made the saves when he needed to.”
The Demons, 22-3-0, are looking for their second state championship in three years.
Still, Bismarck High would be the underdogs if favored Red River knocks off West Fargo late Friday night.
“We’re not supposed to win this,” Cullen Irey said. “They are. They haven’t lost all year. They pounded us in our barn earlier this year. We don’t feel any pressure.”