GGF boys hockey preview: Central looking for scoring by committee

The Knights are looking to return to the state tournament by spreading out the scoring.

Grand Forks Red River's Tanner Bernhardson and Grand Forks Central's Colton Bjorge work for control of the puck during a Dec. 20, 2019, game at Purpur Arena. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — When Grand Forks Central's Colton Bjorge was a sophomore, the Knights won a state championship behind the play of three all-state top-line forwards in Braden Panzer, Chase Spicer and Joey Kennelly.

All three players scored at least 24 goals and had at least 62 points.

Now a senior, Bjorge's Knights won't be that top-heavy Central team. This Knights team will need to win by spreading out the scoring.

"We've been having guys working hard and playing hard together," Bjorge said. "We're going to need guys coming together and doing it as a team. We're going to need more teamwork and defensive-wise play a better game."

Central went 13-10 last year and missed out on the state tournament for the first time since 2013.


"That didn't feel good, obviously," Bjorge said. "We're going to need everyone coming together to get there as a team."

The Knights graduated four of the team's top five scorers, with Bjorge the only returning top-five scorer.

Bjorge finished with 18 goals and seven assists last season.

The second-leading returning scorer, junior Evan Panzer, is also expected to miss at least most of the season with an injury.

Central's leading scorer through three games is sophomore Donovan Balek, who has two goals and an assist. Balek didn't score last season.

The Knights also like the potential of sophomore forward Mack Blue, sophomore defender Finn Lockwood and sophomore forward Ryder Burris.

"It's going to be a team effort if we're going to have some success," Central coach Grant Paranica said. "It'll have to be a full group effort."

The Knights do have experience in net between juniors Jaxon Washburn and Preston Diederich.


"Our goaltending battle is great," Paranica said. "Hopefully, that continues and they can help each other get better."

GGF boys hockey at a glance

GF Central

Coach: Grant Paranica
2021-22 record: 13-10-0, missed state tournament.
Key returners: Sr. F Colton Bjorge (19 goals, 7 assists); jr. F Evan Panzer (4-9); sr. D Wyatt Wockenfuss (4-7); sr. F Bryce Philpot (3-6); sr. F Rylan Hoffman (2-5); jr. F A.J. Spicer (3-3); soph. F Donovan Balek (0-6); sr. F Cade Lindseth (3-0); sr. F Cole Barta (1-2); sr. D Jacob Gerszewski (1-1); sr. D Dallas Gibbs (1-1); sr. F Dylan LaMont; jr. D Cale Quamme; jr. F Caden Johansen; jr. G Jaxon Washburn (88.3 save percentage, 2.47 goals-against average); jr. G Preston Diederich (96.3 save percentage, 0.68 goals-against average).
Top newcomers: jr. F Markus Lunski; jr. D Brody Kendall; soph. F Mack Blue; soph. D Finn Lockwood; soph. F Ryder Burris; fr. D Kasen Panzer.
Coach Paranica says: "I think we've competed well throughout the entire game in both outings. I think we've had some balance. Our scoring has come from several different players. That's encouraging see."

GF Red River

Coach: Tim Skarperud
2021-22 finish: 21-5-0, state champions.
Key returners: Sr. F Carter Sproule (all-state, 18 goals-24 assists); sr. F Mikey Coleman (15-21); sr. F Carson Skarperud (10-16); sr. F Mason Reynolds (14-10); sr. F RyLee Vetsch (7-13); jr. F Grant Gardner (6-13); sr. F Dillon Jackson (11-6); jr. F Luc Bydal (10-6); jr. D Mason Ray (4-11); sr. D Garrett Eickman (5-8); sr. D Mason Stroh (3-6).
Top newcomers: Sr. G Jake Jenkins; jr. D Espen Schneider; soph. F Tyson Ulmer; jr. D Thomas Peterson; jr. F Keegan Buckley; sr. D Hudson Kilgore; soph. F Rylan Bydal; jr. F Kyedehl Hultberg; soph. G Bryar Werre; jr. F Nick Kaiser.
Coach Skarperud says: "I love our group. I think we've got a lot of talent and good hockey players. The dedication to the 200-foot game has to pick up after the first couple of games. They're a great group of kids. We can work on these things. It's all stuff we can fix. I'm not questioning their commitment. It just needs to be a focus of ours."

East Grand Forks

Coach: Tyler Palmiscno.
2021-22 record: 9-18.
Key returners: Jr. F Brock Schultz (14 goals, 20 assists); jr. D Grady Magner (9-19); sr. F Caleb Schmiedeberg (8-10); sr. D Sam Frost (3-11); jr. F Landon Jamieson (5-8); soph. D Cole Bies (1-8); jr. F Jace Fore (4-4); sr. F Sam Schumacher (1-5); jr. D Cullen Schmaltz (1-2); sr. F Cam Kofstad (0-3); jr. G Lucas Wavra (4.56 GAA, 81.3 SP); jr. G Chase Mero (4.01 GAA, 83.2 SP).
Top newcomers: Soph. F Jace Van Eps, soph. F Cooper Hills, soph. D Judd Pesch, soph. D Nick Corbett, soph. F Hunter Varnson.
Coach Palmiscno says: "We’re going to be a young team for the most part. I like our approach coming to the rink every day. I like our attitude and effort. I see a work in progress. I hope we’re a different team in February than we are today. If we continue to improve, we can be a good team."

Related Topics: GF CENTRAL
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

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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