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Young Grand Forks KnightRiders hope to have breakthrough at state

Grand Forks takes the No. 8 seed against No. 1 Fargo Davies in the state quarterfinals at 11 a.m. Thursday.

011522 S GFH GGFGHKY TaylorKilgore AshleyCorbett01.jpg
Grand Forks forward Taylor Kilgore (7) and East Grand Forks Senior High goaltender Ashley Corbett (1) watch as Kilgore's shootout shot finds the back of the net to clinch the Hockey World Border Battle trophy for the KnightRiders at the East Grand Forks Civic Center on Friday, January 14, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks girls hockey coach Alex Hedlund doesn't feel like her team is a No. 8 seed, even if the record indicates as much.

The KnightRiders, 9-14-0, take the No. 8 seed into Thursday's North Dakota state girls hockey tournament, where Grand Forks faces No. 1 Fargo Davies at 11 a.m. in the quarterfinals at Fargo's Scheels Arena.

Grand Forks has shown the ability to hang with the top half of the state. The KnightRiders lost 1-0 and 4-3 to No. 4 West Fargo, 4-2 to No. 2 Bismarck and 3-1 earlier in the year to No. 1 Davies.

"To paint the picture for someone who hasn't followed our season is we're a better team than our record shows," Hedlund said. "We're young and with that comes a lack of goal scoring sometimes."

Emily Becker (13 goals, 10 assists) is the only senior among Grand Forks' top 11 scorers.

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The scoring woes weren't unexpected. Grand Forks lost seniors Shaley Richards and Morgan Stenseth — both players finished with more than 33 points last season — off a team with a fourth-place state finish a year ago.

With Richards and Stenseth gone, Grand Forks junior Averi Greenwood has stepped into the role of the team's leading scorer with 17 goals and 15 assists, which ranks eighth in the state in scoring.

"Averi is our most natural goal scorer," Hedlund said. "She has a knack for the net. She wants to be a good hockey player, and that's really happened this year."

The KnightRiders have just three seniors in their lineup.

"Our goal scoring is a little more spread out this year," Hedlund said. "We're playing in games with top-tier teams and just haven't finished them. It hasn't been about effort at all. This is one of my hardest-working teams in eight years."

Hedlund's proud of the improvement the team has made when facing an opponent for the second time this season.

"We’re playing these teams in that top of the bracket tough, but we need to find a way to put a few more in," she said.

The KnightRiders have been boosted by some emerging freshmen including forward Emma Gray (six goals, five assists) and Taylor Kilgore (five goals, six assists), as well as defenseman Mya Mannausau (one goal, eight assists).

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"They're going to keep getting better," Hedlund said. "I don't like to say we're less talented this year because I think we'll get there. I think we're going to see a lot of good things for the program and that's what tough about our record. We had a six-game skid during our year and things can get ugly with a team when that happens but it didn't for us. The kids kept working hard and practicing hard."

GF KnightRiders at a glance

Coach: Alex Hedlund.
Record: 9-14-0.
Seed: No. 8.
Quarterfinal game: Grand Forks vs. Fargo Davies, 11 a.m. Thursday.
Site: Scheels Arena, Fargo.
State tournament history: Grand Forks has never won a state championship, a sport that was first sanctioned in 2003. The KnightRiders have played in five state title games, the last coming in 2017.
Scoring leaders: Jr. F Averi Greenwood 17 goals, 15 assists – 32 points; sr. F Emily Becker 13-10 – 23; jr. F Annika Presteng 8-7 – 15; fr. F Taylor Kilgore 5-6 – 11; fr. F Emma Gray 6-5 – 11; jr. D Quinn Fournier 5-5 – 10; fr. F Mya Mannausau 1-8 – 9; soph. F Serenity Castoreno 2-7 – 9
Top goaltender: Jr. Kaylee Baker 9-14-0, 2.66 goals-against average, 90.6 save percentage.
Coach Hedlund says: "We have really improved through the season and that’s because of our mentality … they haven’t quit. We’ve continued to have belief in our group."

Related Topics: GF CENTRALGF RED RIVER
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

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.
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