Grand Forks Central starts strong, downs Dickinson to advance to semifinals
GRAND FORKS—The Dickinson boys hockey team has made the North Dakota state tournament three years in a row.
Two years ago, the Midgets faced a Grand Forks Red River team in the first round that went on to become the second-ever undefeated state champion.
Last year, Dickinson went up against a Grand Forks Central team in the first round that went on to become the third-ever undefeated state champion.
The first-round draw wasn't much better for Dickinson this season.
Central, behind two goals and two assists from defenseman Hunter Bjorge, beat Dickinson 7-0 on Thursday night, Feb. 22, in the state quarterfinals at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Parker Stroh, Lucas Kanta, Mitchell Idalski, Kyler Briske and William Lawson-Body also scored for the Knights, who advanced to the state semifinals for the fifth-straight year.
Central (22-1-2) advance to tonight's late semifinal game.
"I thought we played OK, but it wasn't our best game," said Bjorge, a junior. "We did what we needed to do to win, but we need to play as a team more."
The Knights set the tone in the first period, outshooting Dickinson 21-3 and scoring three times.
Central made it 1-0 when Zack Murphy carried the zone before losing control of the puck in the slot. Murphy drew enough attention from Midget defenders to allow Stroh to swoop in for the goal at 4:46 of the first period.
Kanta made it 2-0 when his deflection of a Bjorge shot from the perimeter was partially stopped by Dickinson goalie Riley Wittenberg but the puck was able to trickle in at 10:31 of the first.
Idalski then went to the backhand to lift a rebound over Wittenberg for a power-play goal and a 3-0 lead.
"I think at the start we gave Central a little too much respect," Dickinson coach Dallas Kuntz said. "We gave up too much time and space. We didn't win battles on the wall. We didn't do the little things. As the game went on, I thought we battled harder but we didn't defend as well as we could have."
Bjorge, who entered the tournament with three goals all season, triggered running time with his goal at 10:12 of the third period for a 6-0 lead.
Still, Paranica said the Knights need to adjust their play if Central wants to repeat as state champions.
"I think we have to get back to playing like we normally do and that's moving the puck around and not being individualistic," Paranica said. "We need to rely on our linemates and work together."