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Grand Forks Central jumps back from holiday break with 4-0 win over Bismarck High

Gerszewski, Litzinger, Bjorge, Anderson and Spicer each record multi-point efforts. Washburn collects 13 save shutout.

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Knights defenseman Colton Bjorge (5) celebrates his second period goal with the Grand Forks Central bench during a matinee boys hockey game versus the Bismarck Demons at Purpur Arena on Wednesday, December 29, 2021.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

After a 12-day holiday break, Grand Forks Central rolled past Bismarck High 4-0 on Wednesday at Purpur Arena for its fifth win of the season

The highest-ranked West Region team, Bismarck put together a record of 5-2 before matching up with the Knights. The Demons have handled their conference peers but previously lost 8-0 to Fargo North in the first game of the season.

It was the first meeting between Central and Bismarck since 2019 when the Knights also skated away with a comfortable victory, a 12-1 final.

In the first period on Wednesday, it was Dominic Gerszewski opening the scoring with a back-door goal from the slot with assists going to Connor Litzinger and Colton Bjorge. The Knights, who entered the year uncertain of what their potential was offensively, have seen chemistry grow throughout the lineup and in particular with the aforementioned line of Gerszewski, Litzinger and Bjorge.

“That’s always a work in progress getting the right pieces in the right place but it’s starting to sort itself out,” Central head coach Grant Paranica said. “That top line really seems to work well together, but we’re still figuring the other ones out. I think part of it is the young guys coming along and seeing where they are going to fit and what their assets are.”

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The shots were 13-5 in favor of GFC in the first period, and they would stay that lopsided throughout the game. And although their goals came at even strength, the Knights used an aggressive power play to build momentum.

“I did feel like there was some possibility of some rust coming off that break. I don’t think it was our best tonight but we were as good as we needed to be to win. It’s encouraging to see our progress. It certainly would have been nice to keep playing a bit,” Paranica said.

Later on in the second period, another line would get its crack at adding their names to the scoresheet. Andrew Spicer finished off an offensive rush with his second goal of the year off a feed from freshman Donovan Balek.

Then in the waning moments of the middle frame, Bjorge hammered home a shot from the middle of the slot and gave each member of his line their second point of the game.

The first three Knight goals came from high danger chances area directly in front of Demon goaltender Carter Schafer.

“We’ve gotten better at making plays around the net. To see those plays, that aren't broken plays but the ones that are intentional, that shows promise and growth,” said Paranica.

At the other end of the ice, Jaxon Washburn was tested on occasion but stayed quick on his feet to deny any chances Bismarck brought his way.

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Grand Forks Central forward Dominic Gerszewski slams the puck past Bismarck defenseman Gavin Rader (7) and goaltender Carter Schafer (20) to boost the Knights to a 1-0 lead 4:50 in the first period of a home hockey game on Wednesday, December 29, 2021.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Washburn’s second shutout of the year was also the second of his career with Central. The sophomore goalie has been steady when called upon in his first varsity season and has impressed Paranica and the coaching staff.

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“He always gives us a chance to win each game and that’s all we can ask out of a young goaltender. He made some pretty big saves when he had to and it could have been a different story if those go the other way,” he said.

In the third period, Hunter Anderson tipped in a shot from Wyatt Wockenfuss and solidified the victory for the Knights.

Now 3-1-1 in their last five games and the majority of the regular season left, the Knights are looking to continue that stability throughout the year.

“I think we should be well-rested. I think we know ourselves a bit better and we have a little bit more of an identity than we did before Christmas. Hopefully, that is something that can lead us forward.” Paranica said.

The Knights will be on the road for their next matchup against Grafton/Park River on Jan. 4 before returning home to host Fargo North on Jan. 7.

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Central defenseman Jacob Gerszewski fights to clear the puck from the Knights zone with Bismarck's Hunter Acker (8) and Owen Haase (16) in the first period of a matinee boys hockey game at Purpur Arena on Wednesday, December 29, 2021.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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Grand Forks Central goaltender Jaxon Washburn gets low to cover the puck as teammate Kyle Fulton (6) and Bismarck forward Hunter Acker (8) slide toward the Knights crease in the first period of a matinee boys hockey game at Purpur Arena on Wednesday, December 29, 2021.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Central 4, Bismarck High 0

First Period – 1-0 GFC: Gerszewski (Litzinger, Bjorge)
Second Period – 2-0 GFC: Spicer (Balek, Anderson), 3-0 GFC: Bjorge (Litzinger, Gerszewski)
Third Period – 4-0 GFC PP: Anderson (Wockenfuss, Spicer)
Goalie Saves – GFC: Washburn 13 saves, BH: Schafer 29 saves

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