After Grand Forks Central beat Fargo North in double overtime in a state-qualifying, loser-out matchup of the East Region tournament at Purpur Arena last Saturday, Knights captain William Lawson-Body skated over to Spartans senior goalie Jesse Stahl, who had made 49 saves, in order to offer encouragement.
"They were obviously distraught after the close battle," Central coach Grant Paranica said. "(Lawson-Body) realized and could see what the other team is going through."
An exemplary student-athlete with a 4.0 grade-point average, Lawson-Body, who was named the East Region Senior Athlete of the Year last weekend and is a U.S. Presidential Scholar nominee, is respected around the state just as much for his hockey talent as his class and character.
"He has a great perspective on the game," Paranica said. "He's a great sportsman, for one thing. He has the ability to see the big picture. In that sense, he's good for our players for leadership. He always keeps his emotions in check."
Lawson-Body leads a dominant Central top line into Thursday's North Dakota state tournament at Scheels Arena in Fargo. The East Region No. 3 seed Knights (20-4-0) play West Region No. 2 Bismarck High (9-14-0) in the state quarterfinals at 8 p.m.
The Knights, the three-time defending state champions, beat the Demons 12-1 on Dec. 28 in Bismarck.
Lawson-Body is one of three Central players in the top eight in scoring in the state. Junior Braden Panzer leads the way with 24 goals and 26 assists to rank fourth in the state. Junior Chase Spicer has 13 goals and 33 assists in seventh while Lawson-Body has 18 goals and 27 assists in eighth place.
Lawson-Body's strength is in his seemingly effortless athleticism, Paranica said.
"It looks like it comes easy, but he's working very hard and our group understands that," Paranica said. "One thing that makes him a great player is his speed. He makes it look effortless. It's deceptive speed, but he's flying."
The Knights aren't heading into state with a lot of momentum. In the region semifinals, Central lost to rival Grand Forks Red River for the first time in four years in a 3-2 loss in double overtime.
One day later, Central needed double overtime to beat Fargo North, which hadn't beaten the Knights since 2013.
"I think it's just getting back to how we were playing early on in the year," Lawson-Body said. "We were moving the puck and skating well and playing with higher intensity. Hopefully, we can get back to that."
Said Paranica: "I think we have to score. We put up a lot of shots and had quality opportunities, but we haven't found the net sometimes. We have to respect all of our opponents because everyone starts with a clean slate. We need to take care of business by taking care of our own zone and scoring on our opportunities."