Buffalo junior forward Tom Rooney chases for a loose puck with Moorhead defenders Cooper Tietz and Jacob Holtgrewe behind. Rooney scored the Bison’s lone goal against the Spuds. (Photo by Rob LaPlante)
With the section playoffs looming, the Buffalo boys’ hockey team got an early taste of the playoff field with a pair of games against two of the section’s top teams.
The Bison were defeated 4-1 at home on Thursday, Feb. 4 by Moorhead. Two days later, Buffalo dropped a 5-3 road contest Saturday, Feb. 6 at St. Michael-Albertville.
The Bison (9-11-3) held their own in both games, but special teams proved to be the difference. After playing five consecutive periods and one overtime of penalty-free hockey, two penalties late in period three resulted in two Spud goals.
Moorhead forward Jack Stensgard scored the second of his four goals in the game one second after a Bison penalty had expired. Moments later, Stensgard completed his hat trick with a power-play tally at 9:36 giving the Spuds a 3-1 lead. His fourth goal of the night came with Bison senior goalie Taylor Strenge pulled for an extra attacker.
“There is no question the penalties were the difference in the game,” said Bison head coach Aaron Johnson. “It’s a 1-1 game and we’re not giving up much. Moorhead has some quick forwards and both penalties we took were penalties. We just have to make sure to kill them off. Our kill has to better.”
Buffalo junior Tom Rooney scored the Bison’s lone goal in period two with an assist from junior Cade Stensby. Strenge made 30 saves in goal, but suffered his first loss in eight games this season (5-1-2).
Special teams again proved key in Buffalo’s loss at STMA. First-period goals by junior Blake Habisch and senior captain Kevin Kemp gave the Bison a 2-1 edge after one period.
A four-goal second period began with STMA’s Mitchell Bourgerie tying the score 2-2 at 3:59 with a shorthanded tally. Bison junior Jon Pearson gave the Bison a 3-2 lead at 7:36, but the Knights took a 4-3 lead into the second intermission on back-to-back goals from Bourgerie and Caden Sigerud. Bourgerie’s goal was his third of the contest.
Bourgerie extended STMAs lead to 5-3 with an empty-net goal with 27 seconds left in regulation. It was the second consecutive game Buffalo allowed a player to score four goals.
Although the Bison held STMA to 0-4 on the power play, they again lost the special teams battle allowing a shorthanded goal, while going 0-8 on their own man advantage.
“I think we’re close,” Johnson said. “Those are really good hockey teams. We have to keep working. This time of year, special teams often times do make the difference.”
Although the game with the Knights didn’t have a conference title on the line like a year ago, Johnson said the atmosphere was playoff-like, particularly being the game landed on the 10th anniversary of Hockey Day Minnesota.
“It’s always fun to play St. Michael. It’s always a fun environment,” Johnson said. “I wish there was a little more on the line. But it’s always fun to play those guys especially being it was Hockey Day Minnesota.”
Buffalo returns to action with a 7 p.m. home game Thursday, Feb. 11 against St. Francis. The regular season concludes with a 3 p.m. home contest Saturday, Feb. 13 against Chanhassen.
Section 8AA playoff seeding will take place Wednesday, Feb. 10.
Moorhead 4, Buffalo 1
(Thursday, Feb. 4 at Buffalo)
Spuds 1 0 3 - 4
Bison 0 1 0 - 1
First period: M -- Jack Stensgard (Carter Randklev, Alex Erickson) 12:51.
Second period: B -- Tom Rooney (Cade Stensby) 4:21.
Third period: M -- Stensgard (Cole O’Connell, Eli Johnson) 7:36; M -- Stensgard (O’Connell, Patrick O’Connor) PP, 9:36; M -- Stensgard (O’Connell, Randklev) EN, 16:24.
Goalies: M – Lance Leonard (win) 15 shots, 14 saves; B – Taylor Strenge (loss) 33 shots, 30 saves; Shots: M -- 13-9-12 – 34; B -- 5-7-3 – 15. Power Plays: M – 1-3; B – 0-1.
St. Michael-Albertville 5, Buffalo 3
(Saturday, Feb. 6 at Albertville)
Bison 2 1 0 - 3
Knights 1 3 1 - 5
First period: STMA -- Mitchell Bourgerie (Blake Spetz, Carson Wooters) 2:55; B -- Blake Habisch (Luke Ramsey, Cade Stensby) 7:50; B -- Kevin Kemp (Nick Hanson) 11:17.
Second period: STMA -- Bourgerie (Wooters) SH, 3:59; B -- Jon Pearson 7:36; STMA -- Caden Sigerud (Zach Sjelin) 9:51; STMA -- Bourgerie (Spetz, Brandon Berning) 13:01.
Third period: STMA -- Bourgerie, EN, 16:33.
Goalies: B – Ben Zitur (loss) 25 shots, 21 saves; STMA – Kyle Hayden (win) 27 shots, 24 saves; Shots: B -- 5-16-6 – 27; STMA -- 9-8-9 – 26. Power Plays: B – 0-8; STMA – 0-4.