At long last, it's Grand Forks Central vs. Grand Forks Red River for the North Dakota state boys hockey championship.
For the first time since 2005, the Knights and Roughriders will meet for the state title at 6:45 p.m. Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The defending state champion Roughriders made certain of an all-Grand Forks final with a dominant second period en route to a 6-0 win over West Fargo in the state semifinals Friday night at REA.
"Obviously, Central is a great team and a tough matchup, but I think the guys will be ready for the challenge," Red River coach Tim Skarperud said. "Hopefully, it's one that is a classic that people will remember for a long time with two good teams."
Red River and Central have met 10 times in the history of the state championship game, with the first matchup coming in 1968. Central holds a 5-4-1 advantage, with the teams settling for a 1-1 tie in 1977 after eight overtimes. Red River won the last meeting in 2005.
"It's been a long time, so I'm happy it's that way, I'd rather have it that way," Red River defenseman Matt Scribner said. "You know all the kids you're playing against, so it's even better if you can beat them."
For the 19-5-0 Roughriders, it's Round 4 this season with the Knights, who have won the first three matchups this year, although one meeting was a one-goal game.
It was the end of a surprising postseason run for West Fargo (8-15-0). The Packers were once 3-13 this year but upset Fargo Davies in a state qualifier then followed with an upset of West Region No. 1 seed Bismarck Century in the state quarterfinals.
Red River's second period included three goals and a whopping 34 shots on net. West Fargo goalie Brayden Johnson's 31 saves in the period are a state tournament record, breaking a 2007 record for Bismarck Century's Cam Knutson (26 saves).
"In the first period, I don't know if we were nervous but we didn't have all five guys going," Skarperud said. "We calmed down in the second, got a little more relentless and a little more hungry, and obviously rolled from there. The second period was a good period for us."
Red River jumped ahead 1-0 at 8:56 of the first period. Before the public address announcer could finish reading off a penalty, Red River defenseman Jake Grandstrand sniped a goal from the left faceoff dot 14 seconds into a power play.
Mikey Coleman's work around the net led to a 2-0 lead at 5:53 of the second. From behind the net, Coleman came out front to try to jam one home. A scrum ensued and Coleman eventually circled around behind the net and poked in a loose puck he originally generated.
Red River went up 3-0 at 7:14 of the second. Scribner carried the puck deep into the zone. As Scribner was checked off the play, the puck's momentum carried into the back boards and bounced out front again for Morgan Hoefs to bat home.
Red River senior forward Landon Langenstein rounded out the second-period scoring at 10:47 of the second.
To go with an 8-0 win against Williston in the state quarterfinals, Red River goalie Andrew Peterson (12 saves against West Fargo) hasn't allowed a goal in the tournament.
Red River sophomore Carson Skarperud, the son of the head coach, scored his first career goal in the third period. It came 25 years after his dad was the state tournament MVP in leading Red River to the 1996 state championship.
Red River sophomore forward Dillion Jackson also scored his first career goal in the final moments of the third period.
GF Red River 6,
West Fargo 0
First period -- 1. RR, Jake Grandstrand (Mikey Coleman, Matt Scribner) 8:56
Second period -- 2. RR, Coleman (Carter Sproule, Brendan Mullen) 5:53; 3. RR, Morgan Hoefs (Scribner, Drew Melland) 7:14; 4. RR, Landon Langenstein (Justin Wasvick) 10:47
Third period -- 5. RR, Carson Skarperud (Wyatt LeDuc) 12:07; 6. RR, Dillion Jackson 16:10
Goalie saves -- RR: Andrew Peterson 4-5-3 -- 12; WF: Brayden Johnson 10-31-6 -- 47, Xavier Baker x-x-2 -- 2