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Central high-scoring trio carries Knights over Grafton-Park River in East Region opener

The North Dakota state boys hockey scoring race is a three-man race, and they all play on the same line for Grand Forks Central.

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Red River's Mason Reynolds and West Fargo's Kaleb Knuttila check in the third period Tuesday at Purpur Arena. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The North Dakota state boys hockey scoring leaderboard is a three-man race, and they all play on the same line for Grand Forks Central.

The Knights' trio took turns padding their totals Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the East Region tournament.

Braden Panzer had five points, Joey Kennelly had four and Chase Spicer had three as Central beat Grafton-Park River 8-1 at Purpur Arena.

"They're two of my best friends, and we've known each other since we were little kids," Panzer said. "Going to the same school, playing on every hockey team possible growing up ... so just knowing them for so long makes it so easy out on the ice."

Panzer (23 goals, 30 assists for the season) finished with three goals and two assists, while Kennelly (23 goals, 26 assists for the year) had two goals and two assists and Spicer (17 goals, 33 assists for the year) had a goal and two assists.

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No. 1 Central advances to play No. 4 Fargo Davies on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Purpur Arena. With the same setup as Tuesday, No. 2 Grand Forks Red River will play No. 3 Fargo South/Shanley at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Purpur in the other championship semifinal.

Central, which beat the Spoilers 8-0 and 13-1 during the regular season, improved to 17-2-1. The Knights haven't lost to a North Dakota opponent since Dec. 29 against South/Shanley.

Against the Spoilers, the Knights really took control late in the first period. Spicer started the scoring with a rebound at 5:09 of the first period and Central tacked on three goals in a span of 1 minute, 22 seconds.

Panzer scored at 15:26 on a partial breakaway, Bryce Philpot scored 22 seconds later from nearly the same location as Panzer and Adam Arnold made it 4-0 with a goal from the slot at 16:48.

"I thought we had a few lackluster shifts in the first period and Kolby (Elseth) had to do some work to save us," Central coach Grant Paranica said. "I think maybe we had some jitters, I'm not sure, but it wasn't our best. After that, we started to hit our stride and roll, and I liked how we played after that."

Grafton-Park River's lone goal came from Caleb Hodny at 12:38 of the second to make it 6-1.

Elseth finished with 11 saves for Central, while Ryan O'Toole stopped 43 shots for the Spoilers.

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GF Central 8,

Grafton-Park River 1

First period -- 1. GFC, Chase Spicer (Joey Kennelly, Carson Seng) 5:09; 2. GFC, Braden Panzer (Dillon Kuntz, Spicer) 15:26; 3. GFC, Bryce Philpot (Cole Barta) 15:48; 4. GFC, Adam Arnold (Colten Bjorge) 16:48

Second period -- 5. GFC, Kennelly (Spicer, Panzer) :34; 6. GFC, Kennelly (Panzer) 4:54; 7. GPR, Caleb Hodny (Weston Sangrait) 12:38; 8. GFC, Panzer (Seng, Kennelly) 13:06

Third period -- 9. GFC, Panzer (Carson Caulfield) 8:39

Goalie saves -- GFC: Kolby Elseth 6-3-2 -- 11; GPR: Ryan O'Toole 14-14-15 -- 43

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Grand Forks Central's Carson Caulfield controls the puck as Grafton-Park River's Drake Rose defends in the first period Tuesday at Purpur Arena. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

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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