Red River will play in third-straight state title game with 3-1 win over Fargo South-Shanley
The Roughriders scored twice on a five-minute major power play in the third period.
FARGO — After Grand Forks Red River peppered 19 shots on goal in the first period Friday night with nothing to show for it, Roughriders coach Tim Skarperud told his team to lean on an experience from earlier in the week.
On Monday in a state qualifier, Red River heavily outshot Fargo North but needed double overtime to escape the upset.
"We reminded them we've been through this," Skarperud said. "Are we going to get frustrated? Or keep doing the same things and get rewarded?"
Once again, the Riders stuck with it and finally broke through. As a result, Red River will play in the state championship game for the third-straight year.
Carter Sproule had a goal and two assists and Red River scored two goals on a five-minute major power play early in the third period en route to a 3-1 win over Fargo South/Shanley in the semifinals of the North Dakota state boys hockey tournament at Scheels Arena.
Red River (20-5-0) will play Fargo Davies in the state championship at 7 p.m. at Scheels Arena.
Through the first two rounds of state, Red River hasn't looked like the team that entered weekend with three losses in the last three weeks including two to South/Shanley.
"It's what we worked for all year," Sproule said. "We knew we had what it takes to get here. Now, we just have to put it all together (Saturday) and win a state championship."
The Riders were leery of falling behind against a defensive-minded South/Shanley team, so Skarperud heavily stressed coming out fast.
Red River did that, pouring 19 shots on net.
"I think all 20 guys were going all first period," Sproule said. "Earlier in the year, we were slower in the first period. But the last few games, we've been fast in the first period."
That didn't create a lead, however, and it wasn't until Sproule scored from the left faceoff dot on the power play early in the second that the Riders finally claimed a 1-0 lead.
But Red River, despite outshooting the Bruins 27-13 after two periods, couldn't take a lead to the second intermission.
Following a penalty kill with 24 seconds left in the second, South-Shanley freshman Andrew O'Neill slipped behind the Red River defense on a change and was able to receive a pass to come in on a clean breakaway to even the score at 1-1.
The game's most controversial play came early in the third period, a five-minute major boarding call on Bruins defender Ben Spanier in the first 15 seconds of the period. Spanier hit Red River forward Mason Reynolds into the side boards in front of the team benches as Reynolds skated into the Bruins' zone.
Officials conducted a video review of the penalty and ruled a five-minute major, making South/Shanley coach Dean French livid behind the team bench.
The Riders scored twice on the major penalty and South-Shanley couldn't muster many great, late threats after that.
Red River junior Dillon Jackson scored the go-ahead goal when Reynolds centered a pass from along the wall on the end line to the goal mouth for Jackson to smash in at 3:43 of the third.
And the Riders tacked on a second goal on the power play with 6 seconds left in the five-minute advantage.
Red River defender Wyatt LeDuc, who scored two goals in the state quarterfinals, was able to see his point shot maneuver through traffic for a 3-1 lead.
"(LeDuc) is a great all-around player, but it starts with the fact he's a great leader for our team and shows the way for the young guys," Sproule said.
Skarperud said it was a great battle between the two teams, and the difference between this matchup and the previous two was a focus for the entire game.
"We were ready to go for 51 minutes," he said. "For 51 minutes, we were working and competing hard."
South/Shanley goalie Noel Olsonawski made 39 saves, while Red River goalie Noah Burger had 24 stops.
Now for Red River, the focus shifts to Fargo Davies. The two teams split during the regular season.
In the state semifinals, Davies beat West Fargo Sheyenne behind four goals from star Barron Stibbe.
"They have good, high-octane offensive players," Skarperud said. "Puck management is going to be key. When you turn it over, they're going to take advantage."
GF Red River 3,
Fargo South/Shanley 1
Second period -- 1. RR, Carter Sproule (Wyatt LeDuc) 3:25; 2. FSS, Andrew O'Neill (Boden Meier) 16:36
Third period -- 3. RR, Dillon Jackson (Mason Reynolds, Sproule) 3:43; 4. RR, LeDuc (Sproule) 5:09
Goalie saves -- RR: Noah Burger 8-5-11 -- 24; FSS: Noel Olsonawski 19-8-12 -- 39