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Spuds ride Bitzer past Wayzata

12/30/2011, 1:30pm CST
By MN Hockey Hub staff

Moorhead goaltender shines in third-place game of holiday tourney in St. Louis Park


Wayzata's Chase Haller controls the puck as Moorhead goaltender Michael Bitzer and defenseman Terry Leabo block the path to the net. Photo by Adam Crane

For Moorhead goaltender Michael Bitzer, below average games are so out of the ordinary that they stick out as a blemish on the senior captain’s stellar track record.
 
In the No. 9-ranked Spuds' 2-1 victory over Wayzata in the third-place game of the Sports Authority Holiday Hockey Classic, Bitzer showed that his previous effort in a 5-3 semifinals loss to No. 8-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret’s was an anomaly.
 
The loss didn’t go as planned for Bitzer, who gave up four goals in the game, a mark on his sparkling 1.75 goals against average. 
 
“I felt like I let my team down last night,” Bitzer said of the loss to Benilde-St. Margaret’s. “They deserved a lot better effort today, so I just tried to give them a chance to win and prove that last night was a fluke.” 
 
Bitzer's 38 saves and one goal allowed in the Friday Dec. 30 win at the St. Louis Park Rec Center is certainly enough evidence.
 
“He’s phenomenal,” Moorhead coach Dave Morinville said. “He’s been a good goalie for us all year long, last year too. Obviously in this game he stepped up huge for us. I thought Wayzata outplayed us and obviously they deserved to win, and if it wasn’t for Bitzer in the net we would have been sitting here with our tails between our legs.”

Wayzata's Blake Hallenberg, left, and Moorhead's Bryant Christian race for the puck. Photo by Adam Crane

Moorhead (8-1-0) has now taken down Wayzata (7-4-1) three straight games going back to last season, including upsetting them in the semifinals of the last year’s Sports Authority Holiday Hockey Classic. The biggest reason for the domination has been Bitzer, who only allowed one goal in each of the games and averaged 41 saves. 
 
“I just love playing Wayzata,” he said. “Especially after we upset them last year in this tournament. Just feels good to play against them and we keep getting victories.”
 
After giving up a goal midway through the first period, Bitzer put a lock on the entrance to the net and quieted Wayzata fans who were playfully heckling him throughout the game. 
 
“It always makes the game more fun when the crowd gets into it,” Bitzer said. “They chirp at me, and I just make a few saves and put it back in their face.”
 
This season Bitzer has saved nearly 93 percent of the shots he has faced, played in all nine games for the Spuds, and come away with an 8-1 record. His remarkable performance in net has earned him a spot to play for the Alexandria Blizzard of the North American Hockey League once he graduates from Moorhead.
 
“He’s a good goalie,” Wayzata coach Pat O’Leary said. “You know he’s not gonna give up any easy ones.”
 
-- Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff

game recap


Moorhead celebrates its 2-1 victory over Wayzata in the third-place game of the holiday tournament at the St. Louis Park Rec Center. Photo by Adam Crane

Senior defenseman Jacob Uglem scored the winning goal midway through the second period, and senior goaltender Michael Bitzer was rock-solid while facing a barrage of third-period shots as No. 9 Moorhead beat Wayzata 2-1 on Friday, Dec. 30, in the third-place game of the Sports Authority Holiday Classic at the St. Louis Park Rec Center.

Moorhead’s Nicholas Uglem and Wayzata’s Kenzie Vold scored 1 minute, 32 seconds apart in the first period.
 
The evolved into a duel between two of the state’s premier goaltenders, as the Spuds’ Bitzer and Wayzata junior Aaron Dingmann both played in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey league this fall.
 
Bitzer made with 13 of his 38 saves in the third period, which was played mostly in the Moorhead (8-1-0) end. Dingmann made 18 saves through the first two periods but saw little action in the third, when he made three saves as Wayzata (7-4-1).
 
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

Statistics, Summary

1. Michael Bitzer, Moorhead
The senior goaltender robbed Wayzata time and time again, guiding the Spuds to a victory. He made 38 saves on the night including 13 in the third period. He is now eighth in the state in save percentage and sixth in the state in wins with eight.

2. Jacob Uglem, Moorhead
Uglem netted the game winning goal for Moorhead with a beautiful shot from the point on the power play with 7:38 to go in the second period. The senior defenseman now has seven points (two goals, five assists) on the season.

3. Kenzie Vold, Wayzata
Vold was the only player that managed to beat Moorhead goalie Michael Bitzer for Wayzata, earning him a well-deserved star. His goal came with 5:18 left to play in the first period when he buried a rebound past a sprawling Bitzer. Vold, a senior forward, is tied for first with forward Sam Majka on the Trojans in points with 16 (ten goals, six assists). 

-- Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff

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

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