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Tom Miller/Forum Communications Co., Published January 26 2011

Grand Forks Central rallies for overtime win over West Fargo

By Tom Miller

Forum Communications Co.

West Fargo sits in first place in the East Region and is the new program on the short list of elite teams in North Dakota boys hockey.

Based on points, Grand Forks Central started the day sixth in the region standings.

On Tuesday night, however, the Knights showed one can’t sleep on the defending state champions.

The Knights scored with a pulled goalie with 55 seconds left in the third period and Johnny Simonson’s highlight-reel goal in overtime finished off a 5-4 victory over West Fargo at Purpur Arena.

Central, which improved to 9-3-2, had ties in two of its last three games. But Simonson finally sent the Knights home a winner at 2:18 of the extra session when he danced a defender at the blue line and made a move on West Fargo goalie Cameron Holland for his team-leading 20th goal of the season.

“I caught a loose puck in our own end and saw some room,” said Simonson, who finished with two goals and an assist. “I got my feet moving and was able to get the puck past the goalie.”

Beating Holland was difficult for the Knights, who peppered the senior with 48 shots. Holland was at his best in the opening period, stuffing all 18 shots.

Central goalie Eric Melland stopped 21 shots total.

Holland’s play had the Packers holding a 4-2 lead entering the third period.

“We’ve found ourselves in that position before,” Central coach Tony Bina said. “We had a strong first period, but West Fargo capitalized on some chances in the second period. We talked after the second and said we’re a very good hockey team and there’s going to be no quit in this team.”

Central had to play most of the third period and all of overtime without top point-getter Luke Johnson, who received a 10-minute misconduct penalty in the third period.

That opened the door for freshman defenseman Tanner Corbett, who took Johnson’s place on the power play.

Corbett’s power-play goal at 10:38 of the third period cut West Fargo’s lead to 4-3. Then, with Melland off the ice for the extra skater, Corbett had another blast from the point deflected by forward Tyler Haug in front for the equalizer.

“Tanner’s goal to make it 4-3 was huge for momentum,” Bina said. “At that point, the mentality on the bench was much different. Corbett had a really nice night.”

Corbett, who came into the game with just one goal and one assist on the season, finished with a goal and two assists against the Packers.

West Fargo, which dropped to 10-4-2, saw the opposite result Tuesday than it did in the previous meeting between the teams on Dec. 14. In that game, the Knights let a late lead slip away in a 4-3 loss in West Fargo.

But Packers co-head coach Tim Capouch didn’t fault his team’s effort.

“Our kids worked hard,” he said. “Our goaltender played awesome, and I thought our whole team played pretty well.

“Central has some kids that can scoot. You just hate to lose like that.”

The Central victory creates a log jam at the top of the region standings.

“Any team one through six could win the East Region this year,” Capouch said.

Jeremy Johnson had two goals and an assist to lead the West Fargo offense.

Inforum searchword: West Fargo Packers

Tom Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald