FARGO — If anybody was going to score the game-winning goal for Fargo South-Shanley, coach Dean French figured it would be Alex Senf. And sure enough, he came through, as the Bruins defeated Fargo Davies 3-2 in triple overtime in the semifinals of the North Dakota boys state hockey tournament Friday at Scheels Arena.
“He kept coming back to the bench and saying he felt like he had energy and not a lot of guys did,” French said. “We weren’t surprised he was the one that scored.”
The sophomore forward appeared to have more juice than anybody else on the ice and he was ready to break the gridlock. Forty seconds into the game’s sixth period, Senf wrapped around the net and buried a puck from the low slot to send his team to the state championship game.
“I had a lot of energy,” Senf said. “I was buzzing. I felt like I was reaching my third and fourth gear. I knew somebody had to be the hero and I guess it was me.”
The Bruins are on to their first state championship game since 2007. They will face Grand Forks Red River at 7 p.m. Saturday. But after playing a game that lasted more than three hours of real time, they’ll have a lot of recovery to do before the title bout.
“No team with Shanley or Oak Grove players has ever been to a championship game before, so I don’t think it’s going to be too tough to get fired up to play tomorrow,” French said. “If we can’t do that, then I don’t know. We are tired, but I think we’ll be fine.”
The Bruins were just 1 minute, 40 seconds away from taking the game in regulation, but Max Larson and Drew Fleming had other plans. Larson blasted a one-timer from the point and Fleming deflected it to the far post to tie it 2-2 and send the game to overtime.
“The message after that was don’t hang your head,” Senf said. “We were able to persevere and push through it and it worked out for us.”
South-Shanley appeared to have the game won early in the first overtime, but the play went under review and the referees declared the puck had been kicked in and the game continued.
“I saw the play and I thought it might get wiped off,” French said. “I thought it looked like he might have kicked it in. It wasn’t too disheartening. I couldn’t tell if there was a distinct kicking motion, but I knew they were going to take a look.”
The first two goals of the game proved to be a sign of the gridlock to come. South-Shanley’s Grant Gores scored midway through the first period and Davies’ Gavin Balvitsch answered 30 seconds later.
Drew Sandy pushed the Bruins out in front 2-1 with a goal with 7:19 to go in the second period. He skated into the high slot and fired a shot on net with a screen from Senf and buried it right under the crossbar. Gavin Sunderland and Zach Boren had assists.
Davies goalie Zach Sandy stopped more than 40 shots, including two key saves to help kill power plays. He slid across the face of the goal to make a save halfway through a power play with 3:30 to go in the second period. He later made an adjustment to make a stop on a deflection midway through the third.
“We’re glad he’s on our team,” French said. “At the beginning of the game, they let us put a goalie down and we always pick him. He’s pretty good.”
FIRST: 1, FSS, Gores (Sunderland) 8:22. 1, FD, Balvitsch (Schmidt) 9:04.
SECOND: 2, FSS, Sandy (Sunderland, Boren) 9:41.
THIRD: 3, FD, Fleming (Larson, Schmidt) 15:20.
OT1: No scoring.
OT2: No scoring.
OT3: 3, FD, Senf, 1:40
SAVES: FS, Sandy 9-12-13-11—45; FD, Wiemken 4-3-5-15—27