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Central gets two late goals to hold off Fargo North in East Region quarterfinals

Cade Linseth and Evan Panzer scored 19 seconds apart with less than two minutes remaining in the third

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Grand Forks Central players (L-R) Cole Barta, Donovan Balek and Cade Lindseth celebrate their second goal late in the third period to give the Knights a 2-1 lead against Fargo North at Purpur Arena.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – With just under two minutes remaining in regulation, Central’s third line came up with its biggest contribution of the season. Cade Linseth was able to finish off a strong rush up ice by Cole Barta and give the Knights a late lead against Fargo North.

“We were suffering from a little paralysis by analysis but we still found a way to win. That’s the positive out of it, but as far as our overall performance goes we’ve been better,” Central head coach Grant Paranica said following the Knights' 3-2 quarterfinal round win in the East Region boys hockey tournament.

The Knights were up against two of the state’s top scorers in Owen Branson and Nataniel Fritel. The pair was inches away from opening the goal scoring on several chances but struck iron instead.

Instead, it was Dominic Gerszewski and it was just as a power play expired late in the second period. A one-timer on a rebound opportunity and it was a booming one at that. Just inside the far faceoff dot and just under the bar behind North’s Ryan Robison.

Central struggled to develop dangerous offensive chances and were forced to the outside of the Spartan zone in the first two periods. Foreshadowing the night’s game-winning goal, Linseth, Barta and Donovan Balek set the pace for the Knights in those first two periods.


“They were the line we kind of relied on and they got us going. They gave us momentum and had zone time. I think it's confidence-building for them because they had been getting chances in the past but just haven’t been able to get anything to drop,” said Paranica.

Then, after Ray Walen tied the game early in the third, Linseth had a can’t miss opportunity drop at the top of the crease.

“I saw Barta driving wide and I just knew I had to get in front of the net. I knew he saw me when he was going wide so I was just trying to get my stick free,” said Linseth. “I’m so happy for (Barta) after battling back all year. He’s just always wanted to play. Even when he was injured he was practicing hard.”

Barta, who was injured during the football season at the start of the school year and then again this hockey season, picked up his third point of the year. Balek, a freshman who has yet to score one of his own, added his sixth assist.

“We’ve created chemistry throughout the year just practicing every day. We all can skate and we know that so we just try to play to our strengths,” Linseth said.

The Spartans battled to the very end despite a quick follow-up goal from Evan Panzer off a Robison turnover.

Connor Holm brought life back to the North bench with 49 seconds left, but it wasn’t enough. Preston Diederich and the Knights stood their ground on defense and found a way to advance to a semifinal matchup against Fargo Davies on Friday at Purpur Arena.

“Not really happy with the way it ended but elated to be moving on,” Paranica said. “We were fortunate to figure out a way to win a game we weren't at our best.”


Central lost both its regular-season matchups with Fargo Davies, including a 2-1 season-opening loss.

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Grand Forks Central's Even Panzer reacts to scoring the Knights' third goal late in the third period Tuesday at Purpur Arena.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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Grand Forks Central goalie Preston Diederich makes a save in the second period against Fargo North Tuesday at Purpur Arena.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Central 3,

Fargo North 2

Second period – 1-0 GFC: Dominic Gerszewski (Hunter Anderson, Evan Panzer)

Third period – 1-1 FN: Ray Walen (Nataniel Fritel, Owen Branson), 2-1 GFC: Cade Linseth (Donovan Balek, Cole Barta), 3-1 GFC: Panzer (Anderson, Dillon Kuntz), 3-2 FN: Connor Holm (Peter Dorsher)

Goalie saves – GFC: Preston Diederich 26 saves, FN: Ryan Robison 23 saves

Digital Content Producer and Sports Reporter at the Grand Forks Herald since December of 2020. Maxwell can be contacted at mmarko@gfherald.com.