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Minot-Central boys hockey semifinal preview
February 21, 2014 - Daniel Allar
Minot battles Grand Forks Central for state title berth
By MIKE KRAFT
GRAND FORKS – The boys state hockey tournament field has been trimmed to four teams and, for the first time since 1992, Minot is one of those still in the running for a state title.
The Magicians knocked off defending state champion Grand Forks Red River, 5-4, in overtime Thursday night on senior forward Hayden Schwarz’s short-handed game-winner at 3:29 of the extra period.
Now, Minot takes on another tournament host: Grand Forks Central – the top seed in the East Region. The Magicians (17-7-1) and Knights (18-7) play tonight at approximately 8:30 at Ralph Engelstad Arena for a spot in the state title game.
Central advanced to the semifinal round with a 5-2 victory over Mandan on Thursday. The Knights have won eight straight and 10 of 11 and are 2-1 against teams from the West Region.
The teams met Nov. 23 at Maysa Arena when Central posted a 3-2 overtime victory against the Magicians. Central’s Kaden Monette netted the game-winner at 5:30 of overtime. Three months later, the stakes are much higher.
Central’s bread and butter is at the defensive end. Goaltender Taner Bender allows just 1.82 goals per game and boasts a 92.1 save percentage. The Knights haven’t surrendered more than four goals in a game this season. They’ve limited opponents to one or fewer goals eight times.
Putting the puck in the back of the net has been a strong suit for the Magicians. Minot enters tonight’s contest averaging 4.7 goals per game. Minot’s top three scorers – seniors Quinn Fuchs and Schwarz and junior Matt Flom – all have 20 or more goals this year. The Magicians have scored five or more goals in eight of their last 11 contests.
The Knights struggled to score at the end of December and midway through January, losing four of five games. Central scored just one goal in each of their four losses during that stretch. But the Knights appear to have solved those scoring woes during their current winning streak. They recorded 16 goals during the East Region tournament, scoring eight markers against West Fargo in the title game.
Casey Johnson leads the Knights in scoring with 30 points (8 goals, 22 assists) and Cole Kirchoffner has a team-leading 14 goals this season.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.
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