Grand Forks Red River enters the North Dakota state boys hockey tournament as the East Region tournament champions and on the short list of state championship favorites.
Yet, the Roughriders don't have a scorer in the state's Top 10. Or the Top 25. Or the Top 40.
Red River's leading scorer, junior Mason Thingvold, ranks No. 45 with 12 goals and 11 assists.
The gritty, low-scoring Roughriders (15-7-2) will ride a physical style into Thursday's 5:30 p.m. state quarterfinal against West Region No. 4 seed Jamestown (14-9-0) at Scheels Arena in Fargo.
"We don't have our Tyler Savage or Mason Salquist," Red River senior captain Connor Arel said of top scorers of years prior for the Roughriders. "I think we recognize that off the bat. We aren't scoring 10 goals a game anymore. We know our roles and what we have to do to win. We have to play a solid, defensive game and when we get our chances, we have to bury them."
Red River has scored 76 goals this year. When Red River won a state title in an undefeated season in 2016, the Riders scored 173 goals.
In the 2019-20 season, Central leads the state with 133 goals, followed by Fargo Davies with 118 and Fargo South-Shanley with 102. Only one of the eight state tournament-bound programs has fewer goals than Red River -- Bismarck High with 65.
"Obviously we'd like to score more goals, don't get me wrong, but we have a mentality through the entire team of getting to work and doing what we have to do to scratch out a win," Red River coach Mike LaMoine said. "That magic number, if we can get to three goals, we have a really good chance to win the hockey game."
The Riders are 11-0-1 when scoring three goals.
"I think it's pretty obvious we don't have the most skilled team," Arel said. "We know we need to be the more physical team and make teams nervous to play us. It's worked well for us the last couple of weeks. Playing that hard-hitting game, winning battles and races ... not giving teams a breath. Mike has made a point of that in practice. We need to be the guys nobody wants to play in the last two minutes of a close game."
The Riders went through a strange offseason. Arel noted the program has had four different head coaches in the past two seasons.
Bill Chase, the head coach during the 2018-19 season, was placed on administrative leave late last season before eventually resigning. His interim coach was assistant John Dvorak during the East Region and state tournaments.
In April, Red River then announced the hiring of former Mr. Hockey winner Ryan LaDouceur, who stepped down in late October to take a job with the UND hockey program.
That led the school to turn to LaMoine, a veteran in the Grand Forks youth hockey circles.
"I think a couple of guys with older siblings knew his style," Arel said. "Guys didn't know exactly what it was going to consist of, but I think we embraced him out of the gate."
LaMoine took over the Red River program a week before the season started. He said his first order of business was to get assistant coach Dan Tannahill on board with him, as the two had coached their sons together before.
"I had to put his arm behind his back a couple of times," LaMoine said. "I didn't do a lot of research. It was basically, let's start fresh and away we went."
LaMoine said he established a no-nonsense approach from Day 1.
"We weren't going to come in and horse around," he said. "We're going to have fun, don't get me wrong, but we're going to work harder than we ever have before, and we're going to do things a little bit differently. I think we had to come in and instill a philosophy of trust -- that we were here to do this together as a family and a team."
LaMoine was hired on an emergency interim basis, and he's waiting until after the season to address questions about the future of the Riders program.
"I think in all fairness to where we're at, that's a question for after next weekend," he said. "We're looking toward the next three games, then we'll take time to talk about what direction that'll take us."