Knights reach title game
The Grand Forks Central boys hockey team's road to the state championship game hasn't had much for speed bumps. The Knights, who defeated Bottineau 6-0 on Thursday in the quarterfinals, cruised to a 3-1 win over Bismarck Century in the semifinals...
The Grand Forks Central boys hockey team's road to the state championship game hasn't had much for speed bumps.
The Knights, who defeated Bottineau 6-0 on Thursday in the quarterfinals, cruised to a 3-1 win over Bismarck Century in the semifinals of the North Dakota state tournament Friday at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Central, which improved to 23-2, faces Bismarck High in tonight's state championship game.
The Knights haven't won a state title since they won back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004.
"It's nice to get past the semifinals," Central forward Jordy Aamot said. "We took it pretty hard losing here last year."
Central was in control from the beginning against the Patriots. Knights leading scorer Casey Purpur started the scoring at 15 minutes, 5 seconds of the opening period. Purpur found a rebound out in front of Century goalie Aaron Nelson. Purpur patiently took it to his backhand and lifted it over Nelson.
"We had a quality start," Central coach Tony Bina said. "We stuck to the game plan of being physical early. And like I've said before, our strongest point is our ability to get pucks in deep and cycle the puck."
Central freshman Luke Johnson extended the lead to 2-0 just 1:39 later when he sniped a shot top shelf from the left circle.
The Knights scored just one goal in the second period, despite drawing four penalties in a seven-minute span.
But Aamot made it 3-0 at 3:10 of the middle period when his shot from the slot on a rush trickled through the five hole of Nelson.
It's been a dominant postseason for the Knights. Combining the final scores from the East Region and state tournament, Central is outscoring opponents 35-2.
The Patriots were behind the eight ball from the beginning, as leading scorer Jace Kusler and Dan Birhle missed the game with what was thought to be food poisoning.
"I really felt bad for those guys," Century coach Troy Olson said. "What kid wants to sit out the semis, a night game, on television, in this building?"
Century cut the Central lead to 3-1 with a minute left in the third period. Brady Spooner scored a power-play goal. The Patriots, however, couldn't put on much pressure in the final minute.
"I thought we played well, but you have to tip your cap to Central," Olson said. "It's tough going down 3-0 to a team that doesn't give up any goals."