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Tom Miller / Forum News Service, Published February 15 2013

Red River doubles up Spartans, will play for region championship

GRAND FORKS – The start to the East Region boys hockey tournament semifinal between Grand Forks Red River and Fargo North was pushed back until about 9 p.m. because the first semifinal went into double overtime.

The delay didn’t bother the Roughriders.

Red River used a dominant first period and two goals and an assist from Jacob Benson to knock off the Spartans 6-3 on Friday night at Purpur Arena.

The No. 2-seeded Riders, will play Grafton-Park River in tonight’s 5 p.m. region championship. The No. 3 Spartans will take on Fargo South-Shanley in a state qualifier at 2:30 p.m.

Despite the dominant start by Red River, the Spartans would have some chances late.

North’s Seth Brenneman scored at 7 minutes, 59 seconds of the third period to make it 4-3. Shortly after Brenneman’s goal, the Spartans went on a power play that produced a number of strong chances to tie the score.

“It would have been nice to get one there, but when your top two lines don’t show up in big game like this, you’re behind the eight ball,” Fargo North coach Rob Aasand said. “When talent and senior leadership don’t show up, you’re not going to come out victorious against a good club.”

After the penalty kill, the Riders responded with a nifty power-play goal from Benson thanks to an impressive feed by Jon Lizotte at 12:12 of the third period. Branden Lunski tacked on an empty-net goal to push the spread to three goals.

“The delay didn’t bother us,” Red River coach Bill Chase said. “The first period, we were so disciplined and technically very good. We did everything to a ‘T’.”

The Roughriders dominated the early going, outshooting the Spartans 19-3 in the first period.

“First period, we came out flat,” said Aasand. “Can’t come out flat against a great team like Red River.”

At 12:22 of the first, Red River senior defenseman Brady Bernhardson took an innocent-looking shot from the high slot that slipped through traffic for a 1-0 Red River lead.

The senior defender set up the next scoring play, too. Bernhardson made a tough play to keep the zone, skated to the middle of the slot and ripped a shot at North goalie Christian Colman. The goalie made the initial stop but left a rebound for Ben Cleveland to bang home for

a 2-0 Riders lead.

Red River’s dominance carried into the early parts of the second period, once outshooting the Spartans 23-3.

But on the Spartans’ fourth shot on net, the game flipped 180 degrees.

Ethan Woods, who came into the game with two goals all season, doubled that total with a pair of goals in the second period – at 3:28 and

11:28 of the middle frame. Woods cut Red River’s lead to 2-1 on North’s fourth shot on net. The senior forward then knotted the game at 2-2 when Woods finished a 3-on-1 rush for the Spartans.

Benson stopped some of the North momentum before the end of the second period. Andy Norman found Benson, who notched his East Region leading 28th goal of the season to retake a 3-2 Red River lead.

“That’s why Benson’s a big-time player,” Chase said.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, GF, Bernhardson (Christian), 12:22. 2, GF, Cleveland (Bernhardson, Kratochvil), 15:43.

SECOND PERIOD: 3, FN, Woods (Ibach, Thompson), 3:28. 4, FN, Woods (Sager, Thompson), 11:28. 5, GF, Benson (Norman), 14:16.

THIRD PERIOD: 6, GF, Lizotte, 7:43. 7, FN, Brenneman, 7:59. 8, GF, Benson (Lizotte), 12:12. 9, GF, Lunski (Benson), 15:28.

SAVES: FN, Colman 17-10-5—32. GF, Sauve 3-5-11—19.

Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald