Bjorge's hat trick solidifies Central's No. 3 seed heading to postseason

Caden Johansen's power-play goal with just under five minutes left in the third period served as the game winner.

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Grand Forks Central's Colton Bjorge scores his second goal of the game against Fargo North goalie Nolan Astrup in the second period Tuesday at Purpur Arena.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — With 40 seconds left in the third period, Grand Forks Central's Colton Bjorge missed just wide on an empty net.

"I was just thinking I have to finish the game off hard," Bjorge said.

Twenty seconds later, Bjorge gave himself another chance.

This time, the senior forward didn't miss. As a result, Bjorge had a hat trick and the Knights had the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Dakota Conference tournament.

With home ice on the line, Bjorge's hat trick and Caden Johansen's power-play, game-winning goal gave Central a 4-2 win over Fargo North on Tuesday night at Purpur Arena.


"That was a huge part," Bjorge said of Central's motivation for home ice.

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Fargo North's Connor Holm is upended by Grand Forks Central's Rylan Hoffman in the first period Tuesday at Purpur Arena.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Leading 2-1 through two periods on two Bjorge goals, Fargo North's Ray Walen evened the scored off a deep Central turnover with 6:28 to play.

But Johansen had the answer minutes later. On the power play, Dylan LaMont received the puck from Evan Panzer along the end line. LaMont dished to Johansen out front and Johansen found an opening for the go-ahead goal with 4:57 left in the third.

"We've been working on that in practice," said Johansen, who scored his 11th goal of the year. "The puck went down low, got to me, and I shot far side."

From there, Central would need to withstand one final penalty kill, then Bjorge iced the win with his empty-net goal with 21 seconds to go.

Bjorge now has a team-high 18 goals on the year.

"All season, he's been a tremendous leader," Central coach Grant Paranica said. "He goes all-out from the time he steps on the ice to when he gets back to the bench. You can rely on him. Not only on the ice but off the ice, he really leads by example. He rallies guys and they have to pick up their play to match his."

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Grand Forks Central goalie Preston Diederich sweeps the puck away from Fargo North's Ray Walen in the second period Tuesday at Purpur Arena.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

North goalie Nolan Astrup finished with 26 saves. The Spartans, who received goals from Walen and Koby Kiland, went scoreless in 8:34 of power-play time.


"Frustrating because we worked so hard in the second period to erase our slow start," North coach Tyler Klein said. "Even in pockets of the third period, the ice was tilting our way. But we'd get a power play, and you'd think you'd get some positive energy off that ... our power-play group as a whole, you can't go oh-fer this time of year."

GF Central 4,Fargo North 2

First period -- 1. GFC, Colton Bjorge (Evan Panzer, Ryder Burris) 3:00
Second period -- 2. FN, Koby Kiland 4:54; 3. GFC, Bjorge (Mack Blue, Panzer) 12:32
Third period -- 4. FN, Ray Walen (Max Watson) 10:32; 5. GFC, Caden Johansen PP (Dylan LaMont, Panzer) 12:03; 6. GFC, Bjorge empty net (Panzer) 16:39
Goalie saves -- GFC: Preston Diederich 4-12-4--20; FN: Nolan Astrup 11-11-4--26

EDC tournament

Feb. 14 quarterfinals
Winner of Devils Lake-Grafton Park River at No. 1 Grand Forks Red River, 7 p.m.; No. 5 West Fargo Sheyenne at No. 4 Fargo North, 7:30 p.m.; West Fargo-May-Port winner at No. 2 Fargo South/Shanley, 7 p.m.; No. 6 Fargo Davies at No. 3 Grand Forks Central, 7 p.m.
Feb. 17
At Purpur Arena
Consolation semifinals — 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.; semifinals — 5 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 18
State qualifiers — noon and 2:15 p.m.; championship — 4:30 p.m.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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