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No talk about perfection for Central hockey

Grand Forks Central goalie Aaron Nielsen deflects a shot by East Grand Forks Senior High forward Nathaniel Emery (15) during the teams' game Jan. 5 at the East Grand Forks Civic Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Central is six wins away from a perfect boys hockey season—something to which the Knights players seem oblivious.

The top-seeded Knights host Grafton-Park River (6-14-1, No. 8 seed) at 7 tonight in the quarterfinal round of the East Region tournament. Central is 19-0-0, a record that doesn't draw a lot of attention in the Central locker room.

"There's no discussion about it at all,'' Central coach Grant Paranica said. "Nobody brings it up. They (players) have other things on their minds. They have a one-game-at-a-time approach. They look ahead; they don't look back at what they've done.''

Central has outscored opponents 153-16 this season. Only once has a team come within a goal of the Knights, that a 4-3 overtime win against Grand Forks Red River.

Cole Hanson (32 goals-23 assists), Lucas Kanta (14-39) and William Lawson-Body (15-25) lead a potent Central offense that has 16 players with double-figure point totals.

"We're putting together consistent play, staying with what we've done well,'' Paranica said. "But goals always seem to come harder in the playoffs.

"That's just fine with us. Our defense and our goaltending have been solid. We haven't given up a lot of quality scoring opportunities. And puck possession time has been in our favor.''

Aaron Nielsen anchors the Central defense with a 0.95 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.

Close the norm for Riders

Grand Forks Red River is the No. 4 seed in the boys region hockey tournament and hosts No. 5 West Fargo (8-13-0) at 4:30 p.m. today. Close has been the norm of late for the 12-8-0 Roughriders.

Red River is 4-4-0 in its last eight games. In that span, the Riders have played five overtime games, another decided by one goal and another by two goals.

"That's pretty crazy,'' Red River coach Bill Chase said. "It's been a battle every game. Every game lately seems interesting right to the end. Hopefully we'll be ready for tournaments. If we get in a close game, we won't panic.''

Tyler Savage (21-10), Drew Montgomery (5-16) and Maxx Andrade (11-6) lead the offense.

Savage and Andrade are the lone Roughriders with double-figure goal totals. Red River has a narrow 68-42 scoring advantage over its opponents. In goal, Nate Bradbury (1.88 goals-against average, .912 save percentage) has excelled.

"Bradbury has been tremendous, keeping us in games,'' Chase said. "We're playing pretty good defense. We haven't put up a lot of goals. We're getting shots. We just have to put them away.''

Eagles on a roll

Sacred Heart started the boys basketball season with four wins in eight games, with three of the losses by three or fewer points.

Since then, the Eagles have won 10 of their past 12 games to improve their record to 14-6.

"The main thing now is that we aren't turning the ball over,'' Eagles coach Destry Sterkel said. "We averaged 21 turnovers in the first eight games. We're averaging 12 in the last 12 games.

"It's the same guys handling the ball. But we've worked on things in practices and the guys have figured things out.''

Sterkel said seniors Brenden Bethke and Ian Evavold have provided strong leadership. Bethke averages 17.6 points. "But what he does is so much more than just his points,'' Sterkel said.