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Grand Forks Central misses first state tournament since 2013 as West Fargo Sheyenne makes it for first time

Sheyenne scores twice in game's first four minutes and hangs on for 2-1 win in Monday's state qualifier.

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GRAND FORKS — The West Fargo Sheyenne boys hockey team made program history Monday, and the Mustangs did it against the most decorated team in state history.

Sheyenne, the region's No. 6 seed, scored twice in the opening four minutes and hung on for a 2-1 win against Grand Forks Central in a state qualifier at Purpur Arena.

The Mustangs, who had never beaten Central, advance to their first state tournament. The Knights, the region No. 4 seed and defending state champions, miss the state tournament for the first time since 2013.

"It was a really gritty effort," Sheyenne coach David Benson said. "That's how it goes for your first trip to state. It's not going to be a beautiful game. It's going to be a hard-nosed game. Central gave us all we could possibly handle and our guys just stood strong and played for one another. It was a phenomenal feeling."

The 2017-18 season was Sheyenne's first year of varsity hockey.


Sheyenne goalie Peyton Buchholz finished with 35 saves and had to hold off a late Central power play, followed by an extra attacker for the Knights.

Central's last chance to tie the game came after the Knights called a timeout with 15 seconds left ahead of an offensive-zone faceoff. The Knight won the faceoff and had a look in the slot from forward Dom Gerszewski with about 10 seconds left but the Mustangs were able to protect the lead.

"Everyone's buzzing right now," Buchholz said. "It's the first time in program history, and we couldn't be happier. We feel great."

Sheyenne's Chase Hapka scored at 1 minute, 11 seconds of the first period. The Mustangs made it 2-0 when Kian Hannestad's dump-in from neutral ice wasn't gloved safely by Central starting goalie Jaxon Washburn, who was replaced with Preston Diederich the rest of the way. Washburn finished with one save on three shots, while Diederich stopped all 22 shots he faced.

"I don't know if we overlooked them but we didn't play our best in the first period," Central coach Grant Paranica said. "You have to score a goal, and we didn't score a goal until the third period, so we went five periods (at the East Region tournament) without scoring a goal."

Central defenseman Kyle Fulton scored at 4:39 of the third when his shot from the right point navigated its way through traffic in front to cut the lead to 2-1.

The Knights had a chance to even the game when Sheyenne took a tripping penalty with 2:45 left in the game. But Central, 0-for-4 on the power play in the game, couldn't connect.

"I thought we were trying to get all the goals back in one shot," Paranica said. "We did things we don't normally do. We weren't poised with the puck. We just kind of batted it around and hurried ourselves. We rushed plays that weren't there."


Central beat Sheyenne a combined 10-1 in two games during the regular season.

It was a unique setup for the final day of the tournament, as bad weather caused the tournament to finish Monday. The Mustangs came to Grand Forks on Sunday night to ensure the game could be played.

"We woke up, had breakfast at the hotel and everyone was ready to go," Buchholz said. "We were all on the same page. We knew we could do it."

West Fargo Sheyenne 2,

GF Central 1

First period – 1. WFS, Chase Hapka (Charlie Leshovsky) 1:11; 2. WFS, Kian Hannestad 3:34

Third period – 3. GFC, Kyle Fulton (Rylan Hoffman, Brady McGarry) 4:39

Goalie saves – GFC: Jaxon Washburn 1-x-x – 1, Preston Diederich 5-9-8 – 23; WFS: Peyton Buchholz 9-16-10 – 35

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.