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Boys hockey: Verwest nets OT winner to complete frantic comeback for South-Shanley over Red River

The Bruins were down 4-2 with just under 5 minutes remaining before the rally was started

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Fargo South-Shanley's Colten Nestler gathers in the puck against Grand Forks Red River's Michael Coleman at the Southwest Arena on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

FARGO — When two teams near the top of the standings square off, some chaos could be expected along the way.

That was exactly the case at the Southwest Youth Arena in Fargo Thursday night with East Region second-place and No. 1-ranked Grand Forks Red River, which is second in the East Region, visiting third-place and No. 4-ranked Fargo South-Shanley in a boys hockey regular-season finale.

The Bruins held one-goal leads at both intermissions, but three Roughriders goals in the first 5 minutes, 20 seconds of the final frame suddenly put the hosts down two goals. There was no quit, however, as sophomore forward Jake Verwest buried a rebound in overtime to give South-Shanley a thrilling 5-4 comeback win over Red River.

Junior forward Zach Boren's second goal of the game knotted things up at 4-4 with 10.7 seconds remaining to force OT.

The dramatic win moved the Bruins to 15-5 on the season. The Roughriders fell to 14-4. The result also knocked Red River off the top of the East Region standings, with Fargo Davies leapfrogging into first place.

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Fargo South-Shanley's Camden Myers (21) celebrates his first period goal against Grand Forks Red River with teammates at the Southwest Arena on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Entering the third in a 2-1 hole, Red River attacked quickly, with goals coming from junior forwards Michael Coleman at 1:26, Carter Sproule at 3:23 and Dillon Jackson at 5:20.

South-Shanley head coach Dean French said the flurry of goals came as a result of losing puck battles against a team that will make you pay for doing so.

"I thought we stopped skating and we stopped competing for pucks," he said. "Against Red River, you have to compete for every inch of the ice. They're going to have puck possession more than you are, so you have to defend with your sticks and your skating and we stopped doing that for about a 5 minute stretch. We just decided to stop moving and gave them way too much.

"Then we just decided we're going to fight back and whatever happens, happens and things changed for us."

According to French, the momentum shifted when Bruins starting goaltender, junior Noel Olsonawski, was swapped for fellow junior Max Kirkeby in the third period. Kirkeby pitched a shutout for the remainder of the evening.

"Sometimes it's the little things," French said. "We put Max Kirkeby in net. He didn't have a great day (Wednesday against West Fargo Sheyenne) and we told him, and that was one of his first games, that it would be better for him the next time. We put him in net and we all rallied around him. He played fantastic and he had a great finish to the game for us. I think that was kind of a rally point for everybody else. We were going to go to all of our guys on our bench, play all of our depth, and everybody rallied around each other."

The Bruins went up 1-0 in the first period after a shot from junior defenseman Camden Myers slipped by Red River senior goaltender Noah Burger just more than 10 minutes in. Sophomore forward Landon Meier assisted on the goal, and the 1-0 score held up for the remainder of the first frame.

Roughriders junior defenseman drew his team even just under four minutes into the second period with assists coming from sophomore forwards Grant Gardner and Luc Bydal.

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Boren responded later on with his first goal of the night, which entailed a steal at the Red River blue line and beating Burger far side, putting his team back in the lead and up 2-1 after two.

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Fargo South-Shanley's Trevor Moe and Jake Verwest dig for the puck against Grand Forks Red River's Luc Bydal and Dillon Jackson at the Southwest Arena on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

After offsetting major penalties were issued to Jackson for spearing and Bruins junior forward John Lang for head contact at 10:42 of the third, South-Shanley junior defenseman Trevor Moe went bar down on Burger to pull the Bruins within one goal with 4:41 remaining, assists coming from freshman forward Andrew O'Neill and sophomore forward Zach Skarperud.

Kirkeby was pulled for the extra attacker with 54 seconds remaining in regulation. Moments later, Red River senior forward Jake Grandstrand was sent off for a boarding major, allowing the Bruins a golden opportunity to tie things up with 34 seconds of 6-on-4.

They did just that, with Boren sending a wrister from the blue line by Burger with 10 ticks remaining to tie the game at four. Moe assisted on the goal.

South-Shanley began the OT period with 4:27 left in the Grandstrand major. After junior forward Colten Nestler carried the puck into the Red River zone up the right side, the puck trickled over to O'Neill's stick for the shot. Initially saved by Burger, the puck came back out to Verwest who netted it glove side on the rebound to seal the victory.

"We had Colton Nestler coming down the half wall and I was just right there to bury it," Verwest said. "It kind of worked out really nicely for us."

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Grand Forks Red River's Carter Sproule and Fargo South-Shanley's Trevor Moe battle for the puck at the Southwest Arena on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Verwest said the key to responding to Red River's three quick goals was to keep pushing hard.

"Just keep on going, head down and pedal to the medal," he said. "Just try to score and get back in the game. I feel like it was starting to head our way halfway through the third period," he said. "We buried it at the end and pulled through. Trevor (Moe) had a nice couple of shots and then Boren tucked that one with 10 seconds left, so that helped a lot."

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After Boren tied the game, Verwest said it was only a matter of time before winning it.

"We had plenty of chances (in overtime)," he said. "We just needed the right one and I buried it."

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Fargo South-Shanley's Will Hofer checks Grand Forks Red River's Luc Bydal off the puck at the Southwest Arena on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Final shots were 40-22 in favor of Red River. Olsonawski and Kirkeby combined for 36 saves, while Burger recorded 17 saves in the losing effort.

French said they'll use this game as both a momentum builder and learning experience heading into South-Shanley's East Region tournament contest with Sheyenne on Wednesday.

"It just is an example of how you've got to play every single game," he said. "We play Sheyenne our next game, and they're going to come out and battle us. With high school hockey, you have to show up every single night. There were times (tonight) where we showed up and played and there were moments where we didn't, and it's just a reminder that you've got to play 51 minutes or more and that was a really good lesson today."

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Fargo South-Shanley goalie Noel Olsonawski snares the puck on a high shot while keeping Grand Forks Red River forward Carson Skarperud at bay at the Southwest Arena on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

FIRST PERIOD: 1, SS, Myers (Meier), 10:06.

SECOND PERIOD: 2, RR, Eickman (Gardner, Bydal), 3:46. 3, SS, Boren (unassisted), 13:29.

THIRD PERIOD: 4, RR, Coleman (Grandstrand, Ray), 1:26. 5, RR, Sproule (Reynolds, LeDuc), 3:23. 6, Jackson (unassisted), 5:20. 7, Moe (O'Neill, Skarperud) 12:19. 8, Boren (Moe), 16:49.

OVERTIME: 9, Verwest (Nestler), 3:55.

SAVES: RR, Burger 5-1-6-5—17. SS, Olsonawski, Kirkeby 10-14-10-2—36.

Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.
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