Tony Uglem (10) scored two goals, including the game-winner with just over three minutes remaining to lead Moorhead to a 5-4 victory over Bemidji. Photos by Tim Kolehmainen.
Mike Sauer (9) had a goal and two assists for Bemidji in a 5-4 loss at Moorhead.
Fans entering the Moorhead Sports Center Thursday night for the bi-annual Bemidji versus Moorhead game should have known what to expect. The outcome – a 5-4 Moorhead victory not sealed until Tony Uglem scored with 3 minutes, 44 seconds remaining – was as predictable as a Congressional stalemate. Except that when push comes to shove, the Spuds get something done.
After all, a precedent has been set.
The last six times Moorhead and Bemidji have taken the ice, the total margin of victory has been five goals. The two powerful Section 8AA programs have played in four overtime games and tied twice.
Last winter, Moorhead won a pair of 2-1 overtime thrillers. The previous year, the two teams tied twice during the regular season before Moorhead claimed a 2-0 victory in the section championship game – and that two-goal differential was the biggest “blow out” of the recent series.
Tallying up the record, that means Section 8AA bully Moorhead is 4-0-2 in those six games against Bemidji, a program hoping to break through in the rivalry. But so far, having no tangible success.
“Our guys feel (the rivalry) a lot,” said first-year Moorhead coach Pete Cullen. “But I think Bemidji feels it a little bit more.”
Cullen isn’t one to filibuster, but his program and Roseau certainly have done so to the rest of the section. No one outside those two has been allowed to go to St. Paul for the state tournament since 1996. Bemidji has been oh-so-close the last few years, but with nothing to show for it except the respect of their Spuds’ opponents.
“We know we really have to go to work. We know they’re going to come to play and they know we’re going to come to play,” said Tony Uglem. “It’s going to be a game until the very end.”
For much of the first period, it didn’t appear that would be the case.
Moorhead jumped on the young Lumberjacks early. Junior Aaron Herdt – who scored the game-winner in overtime last December against Bemidji – tallied a pair of first period goals and the rout appeared to be on. His first goal came nine seconds into a Lumberjacks’ power play when a bad turnover resulted in a tic-tac-toe passing play between Herdt and new linemate Thomas Carey. Another goal midway through the first gave Moorhead a 2-0 lead.
But even Herdt knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.
“It’s always a battle against them,” said Herdt, who said the games are always physical and seem to come down to a “greasy, grinding goal.”
Bemidji, which lost a big senior class to graduation, is breaking in an inexperienced lineup this winter, admitted coach Wade Chiodo. The Lumberjacks may have been a bit wide-eyed to start, but soon recovered.
“There’s a lot of new kids we have in the lineup that haven’t seen a lot of varsity time,” said Chiodo. “But they settled down.”
Chiodo and Bemidji relied on a couple of players who have been through the wars with Moorhead in senior Matt Serratore and sophomore Mike Sauer. The duo was involved in three straight Lumberjacks’ goals that gave them a brief 3-2 lead midway through the second period.
“We realized after that second goal that we needed to pick up our play,” said Serratore, who is in his fourth year on varsity. He recalled playing in the two regular-season tie games as a sophomore and the disappointment of losing the section championship game that same season.
It was just a continuation of a rivalry that started when players on both teams were in PeeWees, then Bantams and now into multiple years of varsity hockey. Many of the same top players are in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League in the fall. They’re certainly familiar with one another by now.
“We’ve always had a different edge when we play them,” agreed Serratore. “It always means a little more. But it seems like we always lose by one goal.
“Hopefully we can change that next time.”
Spuds' sophomore defenseman Will Borgen (19) works his way into the Bemidji zone.
Tony Uglem's goal with 3 minutes, 44 seconds remaining gave Moorhead a 5-4 victory over Section 8AA rival Bemidji Thursday, Dec. 6 at the Moorhead Sports Center. The back-and-forth game saw three ties and two lead changes.
Moorhead (3-1-0) came out firing -- more specifically, Aaron Herdt did. The junior winger tallied two goals in the first period to give the Spuds a jumpstart in an all-important section game. Herdt has a history of big goals against Bemidji, as he scored the game-winner last season against the Lumberjacks at home.
But Bemidji (1-3-0) rallied to score the next three goals, including the first varsity goal for sophomore defenseman Michael Forseth and goals from veterans Matt Serratore and Mike Sauer. Tony Uglem evened the game late in the second period for Moorhead and Grant Weiss regained the lead just 26 seconds into the third period.
But again, Bemidji rallied. Serratore notched a power play goal with just under six minutes remaining to knot the score at 4-4.
Herdt and Tony Uglem each had two goals for the Spuds. Nicholas Uglem assisted on the final three Moorhead goals, while Thomas Carey picked up assists on Herdt's two first period goals. Serratore had two goals and an assist for Bemidji, while Sauer had a goal and two assists.
Moorhead outshot the Lumberjacks, 40-27. Gabe Heifort made 35 saves for Bemidji and Peter MacFarlane had 23 stops for the Spuds.
1. Tony Uglem, Moorhead
Score the game-winner in an important section game against Bemidji? That's good enough to get the first star of the game, but Uglem did so much more than that. Working in concert with his twin brother Nicholas and new wing Grant Weiss, the line scored Moorhead's final three goals after Bemidji had taken a 3-2 lead. Uglem had two, one late in each of the second and third periods.
2. Aaron Herdt, Moorhead
The junior wing brought the Moorhead Sports Center to its feet with two quick goals in the first period to give the Spuds a 2-0 lead. His first tally came nine seconds into a Bemidji power play and seemed to deflate the Lumberjacks for much of the first period.
3. Matt Serratore, Bemidji
Bemidji's crafty veteran has been through four years of playing against Moorhead and he knows no Spuds' lead is safe -- particularly when he's on the ice. Serratore scored two goals and assisted on Mike Sauer's goal that gave Bemidji its only lead. He showed terrific wheels to split the defense on several occasions.