GRAND FORKS — With a 16-year wait for an all-Grand Forks final in the North Dakota state boys hockey championship game, it's only fitting for it to be a classic.
Grand Forks Central senior Chase Spicer scored with 41 seconds left in overtime to give the Knights a 3-2 win over Grand Forks Red River on Saturday night in the state title game at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The Knights (22-2-1) won their 29th state championship and fourth in the last five years.
Spicer finished the state tournament with four goals in the quarterfinals, two in the semifinals and the game-winning goal in the championship game.
"It was about my third chance myself in overtime, and I was getting down on myself," Spicer said. "My guys told me to keep going. (Braden Panzer) passed it right to me, and it was right on my stick."
After the game, Panzer said he didn't remember exactly what happened on the game-winning goal, just that it went five hole.
"We did it," Panzer said. "All the work we put in, the summer grind ... everything led to this moment."
Central beat Red River (19-6-0) for the fourth time this season, and the Knights avenged a state semifinal loss last season to the Roughriders, who went on to win the championship in 2020.
"After losing in the semifinals last year, which felt like the state title game because I thought we were the two best teams, that one stung," Spicer said. "It felt good to win it here in overtime."
This meeting between Red River and Central was much different than the Knights' 6-1 win over Red River in the East Region title game last weekend.
"These are kids who know each other and are battling and competing against each other," Central coach Grant Paranica said. "It's just great for all of the kids involved to play games like that. They're memorable, and they give something to the fans to cheer about and something to remember, as well."
The teams traded goals in the first period. Central senior Joey Kennelly scored his 28th goal of the year when he finished off a strong individual effort by Knights' sophomore Rylan Hoffman at 3:09 of the first period, while Red River got the equalizer when Carter Sproule hit in a Wyatt LeDuc rebound in the slot at 16:04.
Red River and Central traded second-period goals, too. The Roughriders took a 2-1 lead at 1:13 of the second when Mikey Coleman elevated a shot from in tight. The Knights countered with Dom Gerszewski's power-play snipe from the right faceoff circle at 4:46.
The Knights had more of the offensive opportunities, with Red River goalie Andrew Peterson finishing with 30 saves to Central goalie Kolby Elseth's 19 stops.
"You have to give Central credit," Red River coach Tim Skarperud said. "They were hungry, and they were moving their feet well, and they're a great team. Our guys had great character and were a great group of guys. I couldn't be more proud of them."