GPR Spoilers take second seed to state tourney
Spoilers play late game Thursday at REA
A week ago the Grafton Park River Spoilers used their special teams to forge out a 6-3 victory over a penalty-ridden Grand Forks Red River Roughrider team in the last regular season game of the year. In the championship game of the East Region Tournament at Purpur Arena Saturday night, it was Red River whose play at times was indeed special as they came out on top by an identical score.
The Riders were on top of their game against the Spoilers on Saturday as they utilized their speed and passing abilities to oust the championship trophy away from Grafton Park River. The Riders were just downright effective in most facets of the game as they stepped up their play and for this game at least, showed that they were the better team.
Red River showed that effectiveness early as they jumped on GPR in the first minute of the game. Brandon Lunski and Andy Norman both got between Spoiler defensemen and goalie Zach Nelson. The 2-on-0 set up was perfect and Nelson had no chance. One pass later it was 1-0 Riders at the 1:07 mark of the period.
The Spoilers settled in after the early goal and played the Riders even.
Red River got their second goal of the period on another odd-man rush. A 2-on-1 opportunity this time allowed Matt Christian an open look at the back of the net and the freshman finished the play making it 2-0 as time expired in the first.
The Spoilers had good scoring opportunities to start the second. Brett Longtin had an open backhander in front that was swallowed up by Rider goalie Aaron Sauve. Grant Schumacher then fired a blast that Sauve gloved to keep the Spoilers off the board. Schumacher had another hard shot stopped by Sauve later in the period before the Spoilers finally got one by the Rider goalie. Jade Miller set up the goal when he skated end to end and squeezed around a Rider defenseman along the far boards, then sent a spot-on pass to teammate Scott Gorder crashing to the front of the net. Gorder timed it perfectly and sent the one-timer to the back of the net making it 2-1 with three minutes to play.
The goal was like waking a sleeping giant however as the Riders would storm back with two quick goals of their own before the period was over, the last coming with just :06 seconds to play. Spoiler coach Scott Peterson saw it coming. “Overall we competed well but for the most part, you have to give Red River credit, they were the better team this weekend.”
Down 4-1 it seemed as though the last period would be academic but the Spoilers came back with an early goal just a minute and four seconds in as Miller skated in from the left side and fired a rocket over the far shoulder of Sauve.
The Riders would get it back however when Christian was standing alone on the back door and the puck was put perfectly on his stick. Up 5 to 2 the Riders looked to close it out early. Miller would get his second goal of the period five minutes later giving the Spoilers one last shot at a win.
“We battled to get back into the game,” Petersen said. “But they responded each time and that shows that they are a good team.”
The Riders would seal the deal when Jacob Benson split the Spoiler defense, skated in alone and flipped the puck over Nelson’s shoulder for a 6-3 final score.
With the loss the Spoilers still earned the number two seed out of the East Region and will play the late game in the opening round of the State tournament this weekend in Grand Forks. The Spoilers will take on Bismarck High, the number three seed out of the West at approximately 7:30 Thursday night.
“Our focus will be on playing the best hockey we can,” Petersen said. “Regardless of who we play we definitely will have to keep our focus on our goal of playing good hockey.”