Buffalo Junior Blake Habisch looks for a rebound opportunity. He registered a goal and 3 assists to lead the Bison to a 7-0 home win over the Vikings. (Photo by Rob LaPlante)
The Buffalo boys’ hockey team had four days to let a disappointing 4-2 home loss Jan. 9 to Chisago Lakes sink in.
“That loss to Chisago Lakes was kind of embarrassing,” said junior forward Blake Habisch. “Coach had a couple high-tempo skates in practice. We had to step up our game and prove that we are a good team.”
The Bison responded with a 7-0 home victory Thursday, Jan. 14 over North Branch. Habisch enjoyed his best offensive game of his career registering a goal and three assists.
His first assist came on junior defenseman Nick Mueller’s power-play goal 5:05 into the first period.
“It feels good to get some points,” said Habisch, who by his own admission is still getting used to the speed of the game after missing most of last season with various injuries. “It feels like my sophomore year. It’s getting better as I go on. I think I’m getting more confident.”
Special teams played a big role early on as Habisch assisted on junior defenseman Nick Mueller’s power-play goal 5:05 into the first period. Habisch and junior Stone Goodmanson assisted on another power-play tally at 13:31 scored by junior Luke Ramsey.
The two goals would be more than enough, but Buffalo offense was far from done. The Bison would score seven goals from seven different players and the game was just as lopsided as the score. North Branch was outshot 46-8 for the contest.
“We had a pretty focused effort for three periods,” said Buffalo head coach Aaron Johnson.
The Vikings came into the game 0-6 in conference play and 0-27 lifetime since joining the Mississippi 8 in 2013-14. Buffalo defeated North Branch a year ago 17-1.
“You can see North Branch from last year to this year has improved,” Johnson said. “They are very defensively structured in their zone, so you don’t get a lot of good chances in scoring areas.”
Down 7-0, Buffalo senior goalie Taylor Strenge made a huge save in the closing seconds to preserve the shutout, his second in three starts.
“No doubt about it, Taylor is a guy who practices hard and deserves a couple chances to play and he’s done really well with them,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen going forward, but it’s been fun to see the development of Taylor.”
Johnson’s statements about an improved North Branch team were backed up when the Vikings ended their winless streak at 27 with a 4-1 home win Saturday, Jan. 16 over MAML Moose.
Buffalo had an opportunity to reach .500, but a 4-1 road loss Saturday, Jan. 16 at Hopkins dropped the Bison to 6-8-2 overall (4-2-1 M8). Senior goalie Ben Zitur was tested early, as Hopkins fired 18 first-period shots. Kevin Kirk’s goal at 16:08 was the lone goal of the period.
Hopkins extended its lead to 3-0 after two, despite being outshot 16-8. Ramsey’s goal 1:25 into period three cut the Royals’ lead to 3-1, but Hopkins sealed the deal with a goal by Nate Nelsen at the 4:20 mark. Buffalo outshot the Royals 37-31 in the contest.
The game proved costly in more ways than one for Buffalo. Both Rooney and senior defenseman Michael Sawdey left Saturday’s game with concussions as a result from hits to the head. No penalties were called on either play.
“They were questionable hits,” Johnson said. “Overall, I thought we played well. Win, lose, or tie, when you play hard and do things the right way, it’s just a good feeling. We outshot and out-chanced Hopkins. We just didn’t capitalize.”
Buffalo is next in action with a 7 p.m. road game Thursday, Jan. 21 at Princeton. It’s the second of a five-game road trip that also includes stops Jan. 23 at MAML in Monticello, Jan. 26 at Armstrong/Cooper in New Hope, and Jan. 28 at Holy Angels in Richfield.
Buffalo 7, North Branch 0
(Thursday, Jan. 14 at Buffalo)
Vikings 0 0 0 - 0
Bison 3 2 2 - 7
First period: B -- Nick Mueller (Blake Habisch) PP, 5:05; B -- Luke Ramsey (Habisch, Stone Goodmanson) 13:31; B -- Cade Stensby (Brady Hartman) 15:52.
Second period: B -- Habisch (Hartman) 7:20; B -- Nick Hanson (Habisch).
Third period: B -- Jon Pearson (Ramsey, Gavin Welch) PP, 11:45; B -- Kevin Kemp, 15:16.
Goalies: NB – Trevor Mellen (loss) 31 shots, 26 saves; Josh Petrik 15 shots, 13 saves; B – Taylor Strenge (win) 8 shots, 8 saves. Shots: NB -- 2-2-4 – 8; B -- 19-12-15 – 46. Power Plays: NB – 0-3; B – 3-5.
Hopkins 4, Buffalo 1
(Saturday, Jan. 16 at Hopkins)
Bison 0 0 1 - 1
Royals 1 2 1 - 4
First period: H -- Kevin Kirk (Luke Peterson, Jack Sweeney) 16:08.
Second period: H -- Ryan Greeley (Peyton Bolstad) 9:53; H -- Riley Martin (Alex Hoffman) PP, 13:44.
Third period: B -- Luke Ramsey (Blake Habisch) 1:25; H -- Nate Nelson (Hoffman, Bolstad) 4:20.
Goalies: B – Ben Zitur (loss) 25 shots, 21 saves; H – Parker Swanson (win) 37 shots, 36 saves. Shots: B -- 6-16-15 – 37; H -- 18-8-5 – 25. Power Plays: B – 0-5; H – 1-5.