Grafton-PR upends Spartans
Spoilers advance to EDC semifinals
The Grafton-Park River (G-PR) Spoilers had a tough task against the Fargo North Spartans Tuesday night at the Centennial Center, coming from behind to win 4-2 in the quarterfinals of the East Region Tournament.
“In the first round of the tournament, you have to find a way to win, and we did,” G-PR head coach Scott Petersen said.
The Spoilers, who advance to play West Fargo on Friday night in the late game at Purpur Arena outshot the Spartans from beginning to end.
“Our game plan never changes,” Petersen said. “We have to work hard, play hard and we continue to improve.”
A scoreless first period saw only one infraction, a minor penalty for tripping at the 10:41 mark by Fargo North’s Seth Brenneman.
The second period started off with a penalty on G-PR’s Jackson Hankey at the 1:47 mark, and that’s all it took for Fargo North to get on the board.
Brenneman connected with James Schock, who scored stickside past G-PR goalie Zach Nelson to give the Spartans the 1-0 lead just 2:35 into the second period.
Two minutes later, Jackson Graalum picked up a high sticking minor. That gave G-PR their second power play chance of the evening, and this time, Jess Suda connected with Will Zimmerman, who buried the shot past Austin Touissant, tying the game at 1-1 with just over 10 minutes left in the middle period.
The score held up throughout the remainder of the second period.
G-PR fans did their best to get the Spoilers fired up for the third period, and the Spoilers responded by coming out firing on all cylinders.
The Spoilers took the lead at the 2:33 mark of the third period, as Will Zimmerman scored his second goal of the night, picking a pass up from Jade Miller and slipping it past Touissant. That gave the Spoilers a 2-1 lead.
“It was a good team effort, and Will (Zimmerman) found some good rebounds,” Petersen said.
The lead held for six minutes, but Fargo North started to make a comeback, as Zack Sklebar slid one past Nelson, who was out of position, tying the game at 2-2 with 8:27 left in the third period.
“We battled hard for three periods,” Fargo North head coach Rob Aasand said. “I felt neither team played their best game, but a mistake in the third period killed us.”
With the game looking like it was destined for an extra frame, Spoilers defenseman Marek Klement notched his third career varsity goal with 5:41 left in the third period. Klement skated in all alone, and went top shelf past Touissant.
A twist to the game came at the 11:49 mark of the final period, when coincidental minor penalties were called. The Spoilers’ Levi Cudmore hit Schock, who stayed down.
While Cudmore was called for the original penalty, Schock was also called for embellishment.
That penalty didn’t sit well with Aasand, who asked for an explanation of the call.
After the game, Aasand explained his frustration.
“I usually don’t disagree with the officiating, they usually do a great job here in North Dakota,” he said. “But in a playoff game like this, I think the embellishment call was unnecessary.”
The Spoilers put the game on ice when Jade Miller scored an empty netter with just 34 seconds left in the game. Miller picked up a pass from Jess Suda at the center ice faceoff circle and skated in all alone past the Spartan defense and scored.
G-PR goalie Zach Nelson finished with 29 saves, while Touissant finished with 37 saves.
“Zach (Nelson) continues to be the best player on the ice for us,” Petersen said. “He continues to do his job for 51 minutes every game. We need some other players to pick up that kind of consistency.”