FARGO -- For the first time in four years, a new champion will be crowned at the North Dakota state boys hockey tournament.
Red River junior forward Zach Hinschberger punched in a rebound off a Connor Arel shot from the slot at 1 minute, 54 seconds of overtime to lift the Roughriders to a 4-3 win over three-time defending state champion Grand Forks Central late Friday night in the state semifinals at Scheels Arena.
"Connor Arel got the puck at the top of the zone and fired a hard shot, it bounced right to my stick and I had a wide open net and I put it in," Hinschberger said.
It was Hinschberger's sixth goal of the season.
"I wanted to do a certain celebration, but I fell and I knew all the guys were chasing me, so I just went straight to the student section," Hinschberger said.
Red River, eyeing its first state title since 2016, will face Fargo South/Shanley, a triple-overtime winner over Fargo Davies in the first semifinal Friday. The state championship game is slated for Saturday at approximately 7 p.m.
"Biggest game of my life, just like tonight was," Hinschberger said. "I can't wait to get on the ice."
Red River and Central didn't waste any time providing an entertaining back-and-forth, as the teams each scored twice in the opening period.
Central junior forward Braden Panzer, who scored his team-leading 25th and 26th goals of the season, scored twice for the Knights on similar plays. Both goals came on difficult-angle shots from in close that beat Red River goalie Nick Antonenko up high.
Red River, meanwhile, kept it knotted at 2-2 at the first intermission thanks to goals from leading scorer Mason Thingvold and sophomore defender Wyatt LeDuc.
The teams traded goals in the second period, too. Central's Will Howard scored on a power-play tap-in at 5:16 of the second, while Thingvold evened the game at 3-3 at 11:35 for his second of the night and third of the tournament.
"It's going to sound like a cliche, but we played our game," Red River first-year coach Mike LaMoine said. "I can't say enough how proud I am of their effort and the unselfish way they play."
Red River, 17-7-2, lost both regular-season meetings with Central (21-5-0). The Roughriders beat the Knights for the first time in four years at the East Region tournament and have now won back-to-back meetings.
GF Red River 4,
GF Central 3, OT
First period -- 1. GFC, Braden Panzer 2:57; 2. RR, Mason Thingvold 9:31; 3. GFC, Panzer (Dillon Kuntz) 9:52; 4. RR, Wyatt LeDuc (Joby Mullen) 11:00
Second period -- 5. GFC, Will Howard (Brendan White, Tyler Zahradka) 5:16; 6. RR, Thingvold (Zach Hinschberger) 11:35
Third period -- No scoring.
Overtime -- 7. RR, Hinschberger (Connor Arel) 1:54
Goalie saves -- RR: Nick Antoneko 3-13-10-0 -- 26; GFC: Kolby Elseth 4-5-4-0 -- 13