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Lumberjacks feeling the Herdt

12/08/2011, 2:29pm CST
By Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA

Moorhead sophomore's first varsity goal secures overtime victory against Bemidji


Moorhead's Aaron Herdt (8) celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime (Photos by Tim Kolehmainen).

With one flick of his wrist, Aaron Herdt’s transformation was complete. Future Spuds’ wannabe meet current Spuds’ hero.

The Moorhead sophomore scored his first varsity goal on a backhand just 19 seconds into overtime to give the Spuds a 2-1 victory over visiting Bemidji in an early-season game with huge Section 8AA seeding implications.

As the older Spuds poured from the bench to celebrate on the ice with their youngest teammate, so did a posse of 10-year-old future Spuds on the other side of the glass.

On the concourse was Herdt’s past – his very recent past.

On the ice was his present and future – and a bright one it is.

“You dream about this growing up as a little kid,” smiled Herdt after the game as he conducted interview after interview with the media. “You watch the Spuds and think, ‘Whoa, these guys are so good.’ Then you finally get to play for them and all these other little guys are running around saying, ‘Whoa, these guys are so good.’

“Pretty soon they’ll be doing it, too.”
 
For now though, Herdt should enjoy his moment in the spotlight. After all, just last year he was playing Bantam A hockey. A few years before that, he was one of the rugrats running around the Moorhead Sports Center in awe of his heroes.
 
Herdt, the only sophomore regular on an otherwise veteran team, described the older players as big brothers, particularly senior center Bryant Christian.
 
Herdt’s role was just to “work hard and try to get some stuff done,” he downplayed. “It wasn’t really going well, but I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t give up, they’ll start popping in for you.’
 
“It’s starting to work out.”
 
“He was playing with a lot of confidence throughout the game,” said Moorhead coach Dave Morinville, who with Moorhead trailing 1-0 earlier in the third period moved Herdt up onto the Spuds’ first line centered by Christian.
 
“We always tell our guys, ‘If you’re playing well, you’re going to play more,’” said Morinville. “We’re not afraid to change lines.”

Herdt made his coach look as good as his George Hamilton-esque hair. He took a slick pass from Jesse Doschadis, took the Bemidji defenseman wide to the right, then flicked a backhand winner over the glove of Lumberjacks’ goaltender Ben Schram.

Morinville compared the goal – and Herdt’s play in general – to another of his former stars, Nick Thielen. As a sophomore, Thielen scored a similar goal in just his third varsity game, netting the game-winner in a 4-3 victory over Roseau on Dec. 13, 2005. He went on to score more than 100 career points for the Spuds, earning All-State honorable mention as a senior, and is now a leader on the Concordia College hockey team.

“He had moxie like this,” explained Morinville. “He works hard and that’s what this guy (Herdt) does. The motor is always going.”

“You work like that and play like that, you get rewarded,” said Morinville. “He wants to be on the ice and he’s going to get on the ice.”


Michael Bitzer made 28 saves in nets for the Spuds.

Quick hits

All tied up and no place to go?
Aaron Herdt’s overtime winner for Moorhead ended a string of regular-season ties between the Spuds and Bemidji that went back almost two years. Both regular-season meeting's last year ended in ties (1-1 on Dec. 9 in Moorhead and 2-2 on Feb. 8 in Bemidji), although Moorhead did claim a 2-0 victory in the Section 8AA final on March 2 in Thief River Falls. The last non-tie regular season game was a 3-0 victory for the Spuds on Feb. 9, 2010 in Moorhead.

“It felt good to get that win out of there,” said Moorhead senior defenseman Terry Leabo, who was part of each of the previous ties between the two teams.

Taking the body
“We weren’t good at all,” said Moorhead coach Dave Morinville of the first 17 minutes of Thursday’s game, after which Bemidji held a 1-0 lead. “I just didn’t like our focus and the way we started the game. Obviously, we got better as the game progressed.”

Trailing much of the night, Moorhead went physical in the latter stages in order to wear down Bemidji.

“In the second period, we came out hitting and started to play our game – get it down low and pound ‘em,” said Tony Uglem, who scored the tying goal with four minutes, 53 seconds remaining in regulation.

Defenseman Terry Leabo also had a big hand in Uglem’s game-tying goal, as he rushed the puck from his defensive spot and found Uglem with a cross-ice pass. But he credits the physical play for getting momentum back in the Spuds’ favor.

“I started picking it up and taking the body,” explained Leabo. “Then I started jumping in and trying to make something happen.”

Between the pipes
Senior Ben Schram made a solid impression between the pipes for Bemidji, as he stopped 32 of 34 shots from Moorhead. Schram has started all three games for the Lumberjacks thus far, and he appears to have the leg up on the goaltending job that was vacated by two-year starter Jeremiah Graves. Schram showed great poise as the Spuds repeatedly tried to screen him and crashed the net hard on most chances -- with little success.

Statistics, summary

Game recap

Sophomore Aaron Herdt scored his first varsity goal just 19 seconds into overtime to give Moorhead a 2-1 victory over visiting Bemidji Thursday night at the Moorhead Sports Center. Herdt roofed a backhand over the glove hand of Lumberjacks' goaltender Ben Schram to send the Spuds into a frenzied celebration in a big Section 8AA showdown.

Bemidji had held a 1-0 lead most of the game after Dillon Eichstedt scored a power play goal six minutes, 43 seconds into the first period. Eichstedt's fluttering shot from the point avoided traffic in front of Spuds' goalie Michael Bitzer until hitting the back of the net.

The Lumberjacks stymied Moorhead until Tony Uglem scored on a one-timer with just four minutes, 53 seconds to go in the third. Defenseman Terry Leabo jumped up into the play for the Spuds, finding Uglem with a cross-slot pass to send the game to overtime.

Schram finished with 32 saves for Bemidji (2-1-0), which suffered its first loss of the season. Bitzer stopped 28 shots for Moorhead (2-0-0). The Lumberjacks and Spuds met three times last winter, tying twice in the regular season before Moorhead won 2-0 in the Section 8AA final. Both teams are among the favorites to reach the title game again.

1.  Aaron Herdt, Moorhead
The slick sophomore earned more and more playing time as the game went along, eventually moving up onto the Spuds' top line with Bryant Christian centering. The move paid off for coach Dave Morinville, as Herdt's first varsity goal was the game-winner in overtime. Herdt played with confidence above his age and showed great hands around the net on his goal, lifting a backhand over traffic from a sharp angle.

2.  Terry Leabo, Moorhead
After admittedly playing poorly the first period, Leabo certainly took matters over in the final 35 minutes. Always strong defensively, the senior joined the offense on numerous occasions in the third period as the Spuds were pressuring for the tying goal. His puck rush and cross-ice pass to Tony Uglem sent the game into overtime.

3.  Jordan Heller, Bemidji
Heller was held off the score sheet, but he was a major factor in the Lumberjacks' quick start. He used his physical nature well to set the tone and was amidst many of the 'Jacks' early scoring chances. Heller was nearly the hero, but he clanged a shot off the post just seconds after Moorhead tied the game at 1 late in the third.


Bemidji's Matt Serratore (12) helped the Lumberjacks hold a 1-0 lead much of the game.

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Micah Miller leaps to the fans after scoring the game winner.

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Moorhead's Jack Stetz (21) throws his arms up as he and his teammates celebrated the win. ] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com

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