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Wayne Nelson / Forum News Service, Published February 20 2014

West Fargo triumphs in 2 OTs to reach state boys hockey semifinals

GRAND FORKS – West Fargo came to this week’s North Dakota state boys hockey tournament with something to prove.

And the Packers proved they are not a No. 7 seed, like they were at the start of the East Region tournament.

West Fargo stunned Bismarck Century 3-2 in double overtime Thursday in the quarterfinal round at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Packers advanced to tonight’s semifinals against Bismarck after sophomore Ben Dirks sniped home the game-winner on a Century turnover at 2 minutes, 42 seconds of the second overtime.

“We’ve been playing a lot harder,” Dirks said. “We knew we could do this all the way. A lot of people doubted us.”

There is no doubt now.

Dirks, a sophomore, intercepted a Century clearing pass near the left circle and quickly sniped a low shot five-hole on Century goalie Max Barta to send the Packers into celebration mode.

“He’s got a good shot,” said West Fargo co-coach Tim Capouch.

Now, West Fargo has a shot at reaching the state title game Saturday night if the Packers can continue their late-season surge against Bismarck.

Century appeared to be in good shape to meet rival Bismarck tonight, but the Packers forced overtime when Tyler Berginski scored at 15:31 of the final period.

The goal came during a scramble in front of the Century net. Officials reviewed the goal to see whether it was kicked into the net by Berginski, but there was not enough evidence to overturn the call on the ice.

In overtime, both teams had good scoring chances, especially Berginski.

But both Barta and West Fargo goalie Bailey Vareberg were solid in the first overtime.

West Fargo scored first on Berginski’s goal at 8:01 of the second. The Patriots got the equalizer when Keaton Leininger bad-angle shot kicked off Vareberg’s skate and into the net at 11:54 of the second.

Cole Foss put Century up 2-1 at 10:22 of the third and the Patriots appeared to be in good shape.

Then came Berginski’s controversial goal.

“We left too many things to chance,” said Century coach Troy Olson. “We had quality opportunities but we couldn’t get anything to go.”

West Fargo remains on the go. And this was a team that was struggling mid-season.

“At 3-9, it would have been easy for us to throw in the towel,” said West Fargo co-coach Troy Miller.

FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.

SECOND PERIOD: 1, WF, Berginski (R. Vareberg) 8:01. 2, BC, Leininger (Nagurski) 11:54.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, BC, Foss (Hunter) 10:22. 4, WF, Berginski (Hoy) 15:31.

OVERTIME: No scoring.

SECOND OVERTIME: 5, WF, Dirks 2:42.

SAVES: WF, B. Vareberg 8-8-8-5–29. BC, Barta 8-3-11-2–24.


Nelson is the sports editor for the Grand Forks Herald