Two-goal deficit not enough to slow down finals-bound Red River offense in 6-3 win over Sheyenne

"Two goals aren’t going to beat us. We can score, five, six, seven, eight goals. So, we just had to stick with it,” Tim Skarperud said.

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Red River players react to one of their five goals scored in the second period iof Friday's semi-final game of the ND state hockey tournament at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Red River defeated West Fargo Sheyenne to advance to Saturday's championship game. Sheyenne's Charlie Leshovsky looks on.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – Out of the gate on Friday, Grand Forks Red River saw something it hadn't seen since Game No. 4 of the season in December — a two-goal deficit.

“We talked about character (in the locker room) and we talked about how we’ve scored a lot of goals this year," Red River coach Tim Skarperud said. "Two goals aren’t going to beat us. We can score, five, six, seven, eight goals. So, we just had to stick with it."

Turns out the magic number was six. Red River scored five in the second and one in the third to move past West Fargo Sheyenne in a 6-3 win and into the state championship for the fourth consecutive year.

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Red River's Grant Gardner bats at the puck as Sheyenne goalie Riley Swanson defends in the first period Friday's semi-final game of the ND state hockey tournament at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Red River defeated Sheyenne to advance to Saturday's championship game.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The start, though, was bleak.

First, it was Trey Stocker. Outmatched entering the offensive zone, he elected to fall back and throw a no-look shot on net. Unfortunately for Red River, it went through the wickets of Jake Jenkins.


Then three minutes later, Zachery Moser headed into the near-side corner on the forecheck. Upon corralling the puck, he tossed an attempt toward Jenkins at an impossible angle catching him off-guard and giving Sheyenne a 2-0 lead.

“They put us on our heels and took advantage of a couple of plays. They were ready to go and we had to shock ourselves into playing again,” Skarperud said. “But I’m very proud of our boys. We talked after the first period that adversity can make you stronger and obviously we reacted the right way.”

It hasn’t been often this Red River squad has faced a deficit of two or more goals. Entering Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday, it had only happened twice this year, both occurrences within the first five games of the year.

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Red River's Luc Bydal scores in the second period as West Fargo Sheyenne goalie Riley Swanson looks back.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

On Dec. 6, the Roughriders started out down 2-0 to Fargo North. Just before that, they were down 4-2 to Fargo South/Shanley on Nov. 29.


In both cases, Red River came back to either tie or take the lead. So when Skarperud’s squad took a 2-0 deficit and 10-7 outshot differential into the locker room, there was still a sense of control.

In the second period, Luc Bydal, Mikey Coleman and Grant Gardner scored in succession and turned the game on its head in a hurry. All they needed was a break, or in Bydal’s case a stick lift.

At the Sheyenne blue line the junior was waiting in the shadows and as a breakout pass came trickling his direction, he made his move.

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Red River's Carter Sproule celebrates his goal in the second period against West Fargo Sheyenne in a semi-final game of the ND state hockey tournament Friday, February 24, 2023 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Red River defeated Sheyenne to advance to Saturday's championship game.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

“The pass was a little short, so I had to whack his stick out. Grabbed the puck and had a breakaway,” Bydal said.

Coleman collected his goal in a similar fashion to his pair in the quarterfinals. With the puck atop the circles, he roofed a shot over the shoulder of Riley Swanson. With pressure building even more for the Riders, Sheyenne took a defensive zone penalty two minutes later.

It didn’t matter for Coleman and Gardner, as the former found the latter all alone in the slot during the delayed penalty and Gardner blew one past Swanson to give Red River the lead for the first time in the game.

With five minutes remaining in the period, shots were 13-1 in favor of Red River. In the first period, they were outshot 10-7.

“We had a lot of adversity on the bench. In the locker room, heading into the second, we knew we had to get that next goal and it was pretty crucial,” Coleman said.


Thirty seconds after Gardner scored, the insurance came right along with it. Tyson Ulmer and Mason Reynolds were able to beat out two Sheyenne defenders to a cleared puck at the goal line and a good Roughrider bounce went right to Reynolds to double to margin.

Another Red River goal was added by Carter Sproule after he whacked at a loose puck crease side, which made a Mustang goal with under two minutes left in the game much more palatable.

“They’re going to do that. They’ve done that to almost every single team all year long. Maybe the two-goal lead kind of surprised our guys at times. But, I’m very proud of how our guys battled and kept fighting until the end,” Sheyenne coach David Benson said.

Now moving on to their fourth straight title game, Red River boasts experience and a mold-ability to its team that has adapted to different occasions.

“All four years it has been different types of teams, but the one nice thing about it is experience. The urgency we had in the second and third period we need to have from the drop of the puck on Saturday,” said Skarperud.

The winner of Fargo Davies and Fargo South/Shanley will have the pleasure of meeting the Roughriders in the final. If the Eagles prevail it will set up a rematch of last year’s state championship which saw Red River win 4-2.

Grand Forks Red River 6,

West Fargo Sheyenne 3

First period – 1-0 WFS: Trey Stocker (Charlie Leshovsky); 2-0 WFS: Zachary Msoer (Hudson Routh, Colton Rogen)

Second period – 2-1 RR: Luc Bydal (Grand Gardner, Thomas Peterson); 2-2 RR: Mikey Coleman (Mason Stroh); 3-2 RR: Grand Gardner (Mikey Coleman); 4-2 RR: Mason Reynolds (Tyson Ulmer); 5-2 RR: Carter Sproule (Mikey Coleman, Dillon Jackson) PP; 5-3 WFS: Jayden Rogen (Zachary Moser, Ben Clouse)


Third period – 6-3 RR: Mason Reynolds (RyLee Vetsch)

Goalie saves – RR: Jake Jenkins 15 saves; WFS: Riley Swanson 35 saves

Digital Content Producer and Sports Reporter at the Grand Forks Herald since December of 2020. Maxwell can be contacted at
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