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Tom Mix , Published February 24 2012

Grand Forks holds on to defeat North in girls hockey semifinals

GRAND FORKS – Fargo North had its chances, but on Friday it was Grand Forks who converted.

The No. 3-seeded KnightRiders skated past defending state champion Spartans 2-1 in the semifinals of the North Dakota state girls hockey tournament at Purpur Arena.

The Knightriders (16-9-0) play Fargo South 11 a.m. today in the championship at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

North outshot Grand Forks 27-16, but both teams were even in quality scoring chances with six each.

“We just didn’t score when we had our chances,” Fargo North coach Kris Dougherty said. “We kind of had the same problem last night (against Jamestown) and it carried over.”

The Spartans (17-7-1) got out to a fast start producing 10 shots on goal, but the game was scoreless after the first period.

North got a big opportunity three minutes into the second period, getting a 5-on-3 advantage, but the KnightRiders were able to kill the penalty.

Two minutes later, Grand Forks got a power play of its own and went to its game plan of shooting low on net and looking for rebounds.

Ashley Becker launched a shot that found the stick of teammate Jaiden Hansen, who put it past North goalie Kayli Stenstrom.

“When you kill a five-on-three off, you get a lot of energy from it,” Grand Forks coach Darin Schumacher said. “We came down on a three-on-two and Becker took the puck wide. We’ve been working on it all year to shoot that far side low to get the rebound and have the far wing crash. It worked perfect.”

Becker scored the Knightriders’ second goal by slipping a long-range shot that found the back of the net at the 12:35 mark of the third period.

The goal gave Grand Forks a two-goal cushion it ended up needing after North started to heat up.

North senior Mara Teschendorf scored on a power-play with 42 seconds remaining in regulation. The Spartans followed with another quality scoring chance, but the Knightriders held on.

“I was nervous,” Schumacher said. “We lost a forward to injury toward the end, so I had a short bench and we were tired. We had to escape in regulation and they were coming fast.”

Eighth-grader Brittany Becker left the game with an upper-body injury and is doubtful for the title game.

Stenstrom finished with 14 saves. Grand Forks goaltender Brelyn Swendseid survived the Spartans’ late gallery of shots on net, finishing with 26 saves.

“They don’t have any quit in them,” Dougherty said of the Spartans late efforts. “They want to do their best at every given moment and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Hats off to Grand Forks for burying their chances.”

FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.

SECOND PERIOD: 1. GF, Hansen, (A. Becker, Nakonechny), 7:00 (pp).

THIRD PERIOD: 2. GF, Becker, (Nakonechny), 12:35. 3, FN, Teschendorf, (Pladson, Hagen), 16:18 (pp).

SAVES: FN, Stenstrom 4-8-2–14. GF, Swendseid 10-10-6–26.

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Tom Mix at (701) 451-5651