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EAST REGION HOCKEY: Riders remain unbeaten

Grand Forks Red River's 5-4 win over crosstown rival Central on Saturday in the East Region boys hockey championship game had a familiar ring to it. In the two earlier meetings between the two teams this season, the Roughriders also won in close,...

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Red River's Mason Salquist (2) skates with the puck as Grand Forks Central's Collin Caulfield defends in the first period Saturday. Red River's Jacob Knecht looks on. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Red River's 5-4 win over crosstown rival Central on Saturday in the East Region boys hockey championship game had a familiar ring to it.

In the two earlier meetings between the two teams this season, the Roughriders also won in close, high-scoring affairs (6-4 and 6-5 in overtime).

"Those high-scoring games are expected because both teams have many skilled players and everyone brings it when we play each other," said Red River senior defenseman Brock Montgomery, who was named East Region Senior Athlete of the Year.

"Everyone does the little things right when it's us and Central. Hopefully, we will be able to meet again next Saturday (in the state tournament championship game)."

The two Grand Forks teams will be in separate brackets, so a fourth meeting in the title game is possible, if not likely. If that happens, Red River will have a shot at a perfect season. The Roughriders are 24-0-0, a non-topic in the team's locker room.

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"Our record is a non-issue," Red River coach Bill Chase said. "Everyone's 0-0 again."

Chase said he isn't concerned about this team fretting about the perfect record or it putting additional pressure on his players.

"The big thing about this team is that they don't tighten up when a game is close," Chase said. "They keep going and going and going. I've had teams that get tight and start looking at the scoreboard a lot. This group just keeps on flying and doesn't feel the pressure."

That free-wheeling style is one reason why the Riders have put up big scoring numbers. Depth and balance are other reasons. Saturday, the Riders had five goal-scorers-Dylan Spicer, Jacob Knecht, Braden Costello, Anthony Haley and Keenen Berning-and six others who reached the scoresheet with assists. No Roughrider had more than one point.

The Knights (17-6-1 overall) struck first seven minutes into the game when Judd Caufield scored the first of his two goals. The Roughriders answered with four straight goals for a 4-1 early in the second period. Central narrowed the gap to 4-2 through two periods on Caufield's second goal.

After Berning and Central's Grant Johnson swapped goals early in the third period, GFC's Nick Lund power-play goal made it a one-goal margin with 4:33 remaining. But the Knights couldn't generate any more offense as Red River controlled the puck for most of the remaining time.

GFC goalie Kaleb Johnson made 32 saves while Red River's Adam Van Raden made 18.

"I credit our guys for battling, but I didn't think we played with a lot of urgency until the last 4-5 minutes," GFC coach Grant Paranica said.

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"This game was a source of pride, but Saturday's win (guaranteeing a state tournament berth) was the most important game. We're right there and Red River's the best in the state, so if we can clean up some things and get a little luck, maybe it will be different next time. We hope to see them again."

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