Cooper Deziel's game-winning goal sends Central hockey to state after 3-2 double OT win over Fargo North

Feb. 16—GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks Central sophomore defenseman Wyatt Blake rushed down the ice about six minutes into the second overtime period of the No. 2 Knights' East Region semifinal game against No. 3 Fargo North.

Blake passed to junior forward Mack Blue, who tried to feed sophomore forward Cooper Deziel back door. That shot didn't clear Fargo North goaltender Parker Dosch.

Senior forward Evan Panzer attempted another shot, which trickled to Blue, then Deziel.

Deziel collected the rebound after Blue's shot and found an opening to score and punch Central's ticket to state with a 3-2 win on Friday at Purpur Arena.

"I just banged her home," Deziel said of his game-winning goal.

The game, as Central coach Grant Paranica described it, was "two old school, high school teams slugging it out."

Both teams scored a goal apiece in the first two periods. Fargo North opened both periods with scores from top line center Ray Walen (one goal, one assist) and winger Max Watson (one goal, one assist).

Central's first was from junior forward Donovan Balek, who corralled the puck after Brady Kirkeby's shot bounced off Dosch. Senior forward Markus Lunski scored with seconds remaining in the second period.

That would be the final goal until Deziel's shot in the second overtime.

Central goaltender Jaxon Washburn ended with 20 saves and never saw more than seven shots in a period. Dosch had 36 saves. He stayed crouched in front of the net in disbelief after allowing the game-winning goal that ended a goaltender duel.

Central has solidified their spot in the state tournament. Fargo North has one more chance to do the same, in the second state qualifier Saturday against No. 5 West Fargo.

"Our guys are ultra focused and really driven toward it," Spartans coach Tyler Klein said. "As much as it stung to lose the game right there, it was a pretty quick refocus from our guys."

Both teams were playing with an edge, knowing a state tournament berth was on the line. The game's physicality reached a breaking point in the third period. Central senior defenseman Cale Quamme was assessed a five-minute major for boarding.

Fargo North was unable to capitalize. Twenty-two seconds after the Knights killed the penalty off, senior defenseman Tray Kuntz was called for elbowing.

Central escaped another Fargo North power play after Walen was called for slashing.

The Knights had one more opportunity in regulation: Fargo North's Samuel Fritel was called for roughing with 2 minutes, 17 seconds left. Central's power play couldn't convert, sending the game to overtime.

"Our guys really rallied around each other," Paranica said. "That gave us more momentum and more passion to try and win it."

Central faces No. 1 Red River in the East Region title game Saturday evening at Purpur Arena.

"We'd love to celebrate this one," Paranica said, "but there's no time for that. We have to think about tomorrow."