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Tom Miller / Forum News Service, Published February 12 2013

Red River skates past Packers in EDC playoffs

GRAND FORKS – Everything seemed to go Grand Forks Red River’s way in the first period Tuesday night against West Fargo in the North Dakota East Region boys hockey tournament quarterfinals.

Even a slap shot off a defender’s stick and a teammate’s facemask found the back of the net.

Jacob Benson’s blast from the blue line caromed off a stick, into Matt Christian’s mask and into the net for a three-goal lead en route to Red River’s 7-1 win over the Packers at Purpur Arena.

“So, we’ll practice those tomorrow,” Red River coach Bill Chase joked.

The No. 2-seeded Roughriders, who improved to 16-5-1, will play No. 3 Fargo North at about 8:30 p.m. Friday in the tournament semifinals. The No. 7 Packers will take on No. 6 Grand Forks Central at approximately 2:30 p.m. in the consolation semifinals. The rest of the region tournament will be hosted at Purpur Arena.

Red River, which beat West Fargo 6-0 and 6-2 during the regular season, was playing shorthanded offensively.

Forwards Jordan Lunski and Andy Norman didn’t play for the Roughriders after receiving penalties in the team’s regular-season finale against Grafton-Park River. Norman is the team’s third leading scorer.

“We had to play with three lines that hadn’t played together,” Chase said. “We couldn’t get team hockey going. We miss the energy and skill of those two guys. But we were able to get the lead because we have some guys with skill.”

The Roughriders lineup may have been jumbled, but Red River still had the services of Benson, who recently committed to play college hockey at St. Cloud State.

“It hurts having Norman and Lunski out because they’re a couple of our big boys we rely on a lot,” Benson said. “But it also shows character that we can play without them, too.”

Benson, who scored his East Region-leading 27th goal, led the way with a goal and three assists. Seven different Roughriders scored in all.

“They have a lot of speed and they’re very good,” West Fargo co-head coach Tim Capouch said. “I actually thought our first period was one of the better periods we played. They were able to get a couple of bounces there.”

After the teams traded goals in the opening 90 seconds thanks to tallies by Red River’s Ross Johnson and West Fargo’s Tyler Berginski, Benson darted end to end on a power play and used a combination of power and speed to beat two defenders and score five-hole on West Fargo netminder Bailey Vareberg, who finished with 32 saves.

Red River senior Jon Lizotte pushed the lead to 3-1 when Benson found Lizotte’s strong presence camped near the crease at 7:41 of the first period.

After Christian’s deflection made it 4-1 with 40 seconds left in the first period, Red River gained breathing room in the middle period with tallies by Branden Lunski and Jonah Kratochvil.

Logan Montgomery capped the scoring with a snipe from the right circle in third period.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, GFRR, Johnson (Campbell) 1:05. 2, WF, Berginski (Nelson, Hoy) 1:27. 3, GFRR, Benson (Lunski, Johnson) 2:47. 4, GFRR, Lizotte (Benson, Caulfield) 7:41. 5, GFRR, Christian (Benson, Lunski) 16:20.

SECOND PERIOD: 6, GFRR, Lunski (Benson, Lizotte) 6:14. 7, GFRR, Kratochvil (Lizotte, Christian) 10:58.

THIRD PERIOD: 8, GFRR, Montgomery (Johnson) 1:19.

SAVES: GFRR, Sauve 10-9-3–22. WF, Vareberg 11-14-7–32.

Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald