Playing in its first North Dakota state hockey tournament since 2012, Bottineau-Rugby received its moment in the spotlight Tuesday night when Dalton Vietz-Reile scored a first-period goal to give the Braves the early lead on Grand Forks Central.
Make no mistake, though. The Knights were far too experienced and skilled to let any wild thoughts of an extreme upset linger very long.
Central scored twice in the final 40 seconds of the first period and carried that momentum to an 8-1 win over Bottineau-Rugby in the state quarterfinals at Purpur Arena.
"I think we just kept with it," said Central senior forward Chase Spicer, who had four goals. "It obviously wasn't the start we wanted to get scored on right away, but we just kept cool heads and stayed calm."
Vietz-Reile scored on a breakaway at 5 minutes, 31 seconds of the first period to give the Braves a 1-0 lead. The lead lasted about four and a half minutes.
The Knights tied it at 1-1with Spicer's first goal of the game, on assists to linemates Braden Panzer and Joey Kennelly at 9:54.
Just as Bottineau-Rugby appeared poised to take a tie game to the first intermission, the Knights showcased their ability for a quick-strike offense.
Spicer scored his second at 16:20, while Dom Gerszewski scored just 13 seconds later. Just like that, the Knights went into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead.
"It didn't go as planned but we played well enough to win and did the right things at the right times," Central coach Grant Paranica said. "Credit to (Bottineau-Rugby). We were kind of floundering a little bit. They did a good job getting sticks in the way and not letting us get it in deep. We found a way around that."
Just 49 seconds into the second period, Spicer collected the hat trick.
"Chase had one of his better games," Paranica said. "He put the puck on net when he had his opportunities, and he didn't try to do too much. He won his corner battles, and he did the little things right."
From there, Central rounded out the scoring with one more goal from Spicer, one goal from defenseman Dillon Kuntz and two goals from sophomore Bryce Philpot, who entered the state tournament with two goals on the season.
"Bryce has the ability and just hasn't found the scoresheet very much," Paranica said. "I think now with a full season under his belt and adjusting to the varsity level, he's getting the hang of it. Now, he's starting to find success and able to bear down on his opportunities. That's great because it adds depth to our lineup."
Central, which improved to 20-2-1, advances to play Fargo South, a 3-0 winner at Minot in the state quarterfinals. The Bruins and the Knights will play the first semifinal Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
GF Central 8,
First period -- 1. BR, Dalton Vietz-Reile 5:31; 2. GFC, Chase Spicer (Joey Kennelly, Braden Panzer) 9:54; 3. GFC, Spicer (Panzer, Kennelly) 16:20; 4. GFC, Dom Gerszewski (Brendan White, Connor Litzinger) 16:33
Second period -- 5. GFC, Spicer (Panzer, Joseph Riskey) :49; 6. GFC, Bryce Philpot (Gerszewski, Kennelly) 8:48
Third period -- 7. GFC, Spicer (Panzer, Kennelly) :39; 8. GFC, Dillon Kuntz 1:37; 9. GFC, Philpot (Rylan Hoffman) 9:18
Goalie saves -- GFC: Kolby Elseth 3-4-1 -- 8; BR: Tyler Olson 17-15-11 -- 43