Thomas Carey (27) chips the game-winning goal toward the Roseau net. Carey finished with a goal and two assists as the Spuds beat the Rams, 3-0. Photos by Tim Kolehmainen.
Moorhead coach Dave Morinville points out a few things to Thomas Carey (27) and Nicholas Uglem (17) during the Spuds' 3-0 victory over Roseau. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen.
The longer the Section 8AA semifinal between Roseau and Moorhead remained scoreless Saturday night, the more the tension mounted.
The overflowing crowd at the Moorhead Sports Center agonized over every close call. They groaned as the Spuds’ Cody Rahman just tipped a one-timer wide midway through the second. They gasped Roseau’s Zach Yon and Alex Strand nearly connected on a 2-on-1 late in the same period.
Then with one flick of his wrist, Moorhead junior Thomas Carey gave the home fans a release.
With the Spuds pressing for the game’s first goal, Carey found himself trapped low in the offensive zone. Instead of panicking, though, he cruised through the low slot, calmly corralled a bouncing puck, and slammed it past Rams’ goalie Jared Strand.
“I just slapped her home and it found a way to go in the net,” shrugged Carey, whose goal with just 1 minute, 12 seconds left in the second period ended up as the game-winner in a 3-0 victory for top-seeded Moorhead (20-6-0). Carey later assisted on a pair of third-period goals that sealed the Spuds’ trip to the Section 8AA final.
“We knew it was not going to be an easy game,” said Spuds’ coach Dave Morinville. “Every time we play Roseau it’s a dog fight.”
The fourth-seeded Rams (16-10-1) went toe-to-toe with Moorhead for much of the first two periods as Jared Strand played a game of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better in goal with Bitzer. The two goalies – and their defensive zone help – were impeccable through 32-1/2 minutes.
But as the clock ticked down in the second period, Moorhead’s depth and grinding style finally took its toll. Roseau had chances to clear the puck out of its zone before Carey’s goal, but came up short on several attempts according to coach Andy Lundbohm.
“I thought it was pretty even before that (goal),” said Lundbohm. “But after that, it ignited a little fire under them.”
As big as the first goal proved to be, it was nearly the Rams who drew first blood. Just minutes earlier, Roseau sophomore sensation Alex Strand beat Spuds’ goalie Michael Bitzer clean with a wicked wrister -- but it clanged off the post and came straight back out.
“I think whoever got that first goal was really going to get the spark,” said Lundbohm. “They got it and got that spark. We didn’t.”
Still, heading into the second intermission with just a one-goal lead wasn’t a comfortable position, admitted Morinville. “The hardest part is to get right back out there and get it going – get that jump back,” he said.
“We came into the locker room after the second and we thought we couldn’t sit and play defensively and play not to lose,” said Carey. “We had to keep our foot on the gas pedal and try to win.
“And we did it.”
The Spuds outshot Roseau 31-8 over the final two periods, getting a pair of goals from Tony Uglem and Eric Barker midway through the third to break the game open. Bitzer finished with 18 saves.
The Spuds advance to the Section 8AA final to take on third-seeded Brainerd on Wednesday night at Bemidji’s Sanford Center. Brainerd (23-4-0) moved ahead with a 5-2 victory at Bemidji Saturday afternoon. Moorhead twice beat the Warriors during the regular season, but was outshot in each game.
“We’ve been finding ways to win games all year long,” said Morinville. “Every time we’ve had a team that’s like that, we’ve gone some distance (in the playoffs).”
Roseau's Alex Strand (5) clanks a second period shot off the post as Michael Bitzer stretches toward it. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen.
Thomas Carey scored with 1 minute, 12 seconds remaining in the second period to stop a scoreless duel and propel top-seeded Moorhead to a 3-0 victory over fourth-seeded Roseau in the Section 8AA semifinals at the Moorhead Sports Center Saturday, Feb. 25. Carey, a junior center, finished with a goal and two assists.
Through nearly two periods, Roseau's Jared Strand and Moorhead's Michael Bitzer waged a goaltending duel. Strand finished with 38 saves on 41 shots, while Bitzer earned the shutout with 18 saves. Both were busy in the first period, making 10 stops each. But as the game went along, Moorhead (20-6-0) just got stronger.
The Spuds outshot Roseau (16-10-1) by a 31-8 margin over the final two periods.
Tony Uglem and Eric Barker scored just over two minutes apart midway through the third period -- both assisted by Carey -- to put the game away. With Moorhead milking a three-goal lead with just under five minutes left, the Rams' Tanner Stechmann was called for a 5-and-10 checking from behind penalty, putting Roseau shorthanded for the rest of the game.
With the victory, Moorhead advances to the Section 8AA final against third-seeded Brainerd on Wednesday, Feb. 29 at Bemidji. The Warriors defeated Bemidji in the other section semifinal, 5-2.
1. Thomas Carey, Moorhead
With the game very much in doubt, Carey jumpstarted the Spuds with the first goal of the night -- and what turned out to be the winning goal. On a scramble in front of Rams' goalie Jared Strand with just 1 minute, 12 seconds remaining in the second period, Carey chipped the puck up and over Strand. The junior leaped high in the air, celebrating with his teammates and turning momentum clearly in favor of the Spuds. Carey also assisted on both third-period goals that put the game out of reach.
2. Michael Bitzer, Moorhead
Bitzer gets a big assist on his second star from his defensive corps, which for most of the night kept Roseau's speedy forwards to the outside -- allowing the senior to get a good look at all 18 saves he made. In two playoff games, the Brimsek Award finalist has yet to allow a goal.
3. Alex Strand, Roseau
Always dangerous, Strand used his speed and quickness to get outside the Moorhead defense on several occasions. The sophomore very nearly gave Roseau the first lead of the game, clanging a wrister off the post just minutes before Thomas Carey's opening goal.