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After falling behind 2-0, Grand Forks Red River knocks off Bismarck Century to return to state semifinals

Feb. 22—FARGO — The Grand Forks Red River boys hockey team found themselves down two goals with about eight minutes left to play in the second period against West No. 3 seed Bismarck Century in the North Dakota state quarterfinals Thursday at Scheels Arena in Fargo.

It took just 34 seconds in the middle of the second for the Roughriders to tie the game. Five minutes later, Red River, the No. 2 seed in the East, took the lead, one they wouldn't give up in Red River's 5-2 win over Century.

Ryan Wasvick started the scoring with a backhand goal, and Griffen Haagenson tied the game with a tap-in off Century goaltender Hoyt Ubl's foot.

Defenseman Thomas Peterson scored from just in front of the blue line to give Red River a 3-2 lead.

"That line has been really good for us lately," coach Tim Skarperud said of the second line of Wasvick, Haagenson and Keegan Buckley. "It's because (they are) hard-nosed, get to the net. Both of those goals were within a foot or two feet from the net. We talk about getting around that net and getting around the puck, and they were rewarded for that. It's all those little things that win championships."

The final two periods of the quarterfinal were a 180-degree turn from how Red River started the game. The Riders struggled to stay in their offensive zone early, but went back to their blue-collar style of play and got pucks on the net in the latter half of the game.

"We had three great practices coming into this week and, just for some reason, came out flat," Skarperud said. "Weren't ready to go and wanted to play cute hockey instead of all those little things that make you successful. These guys wanted to play pretty, circling away from the puck. Our forecheck was not good, guys were getting behind us ... just so many things that we haven't done in a long time.

"And obviously, at the state tournament, emotions are high. You have to be able to handle those emotions in the right way, and I don't think we did that first period. The second half of the game went back to how we play."

Mason Ray and Grant Gardner scored for the Riders in the third to extend the lead. Red River almost had another goal added to their total: Early in the second period, a puck went in between the legs of Century goalie Ubl. Red River fans thought the puck went in, but when Ubl stood, the puck sat on the red line.

Gardner and Buckley, who assisted on Haagenson and Peterson's goals, both ended with two points each in the win.

Red River goalie Tucker Hager had 27 saves in the win, including 11 in the final period. Kaden Roness and Haydon Eckart scored for Century in the first, and Ubl ended with 23 saves.

The Riders will play No. 4 Fargo South/Shanley in the semifinals Friday. Red River lost in triple overtime to South/Shanley in the state championship game last season. South/Shanley beat West's No. 1 Dickinson 3-2 in the first quarterfinal Thursday.

Red River remembers what happened in the title game last year, but this Riders team is different from last season's lineup and is focused on doing the little things well.

"We've got to worry about us," Skarperud said. "Of course, there's things that you key on with your opponent. But what I've talked about with our guys is, let's make sure we're playing the best Rider hockey possible. That's skating, that's competitive and that's urgency, and playing our systems. You focus on a couple of things with them, but it's the state semifinal game. Everyone's going to be raring to go, and it should be good intensity."