Buffalo carried plenty of momentum heading into this year’s Section 8AA boys’ hockey tournament.
The Bison ended the regular season with a pair home wins over St. Francis and Chanhassen. They ended their conference schedule with a 7-1 blowout Thursday, Feb. 11 over the Fighting Saints, and ended it with a 2-1 non-conference win Saturday, Feb. 13 over Chanhassen.
Nick Mueller had a goal and three assists in the St. Francis win. It marked the fifth multi-point game of the season for the junior defenseman, who finished the regular season with 17 points (3 goals, 14 assists) in 25 games.
“Nick’s been really good for us all year,” said Bison head coach Aaron Johnson. “When he’s on the ice, we’re a better team. It’s amazing how quickly we get out of our defensive zone and how much more time we spend in the offensive zone when he’s out there.”
Offense was spread throughout the lineup against St. Francis. Six different players scored goals, and six players ended with multi-point games. Senior captain Brady Hartman scored twice, senior captain Kevin Kemp had a goal and two assists, junior forward Luke Ramsey had a goal and an assist, and junior forward Carter Patnode and sophomore defenseman Ben Lindvall each had two assists.
Although he was held to just one assist, Buffalo’s leading scorer Cade Stensby credits the upperclassmen for getting the team playing its best hockey down the stretch.
The seniors have been leading the way for us,” said Stensby, who ended the season with a team-leading 28 points (7 goals, 21 assists). “We’ve all been chipping in and we all know our roles. We’ve been getting great goaltending.”
Senior goalie Taylor Strenge improved to 6-1-2 overall stopping 12 shots to earn the win against the Fighting Saints. Senior Ben Zitur stopped 21 shots to earn his fifth win of the season against Chanhassen.
Ramsey and junior forward Stone Goodmanson’s first-period goals were just enough to hold up in a 2-1 victory over the Storm.
With momentum on their side, the Bison knew they needed that and more to knock off No. 2 seed Moorhead in the Section 8AA quarterfinals.
“We came in a confident group,” Johnson said. “But we needed things to go our way to have that come true.”
Just three minutes into the game, the Bison suffered their first setback on a play where junior defenseman Jon Pearson suffered a knee-on-knee injury that forced him to hobble back to the bench. In the process, the Buffalo was called for a too many men on the ice penalty.
Not long after, Moorhead sophomore Cole O’Connell gave the Spuds a 1-0 lead 4:05 into the game on the power play. Moorhead made it 2-0 at the 12:07 mark of the period on a rebound goal from freshman Nolan Westra.
Buffalo elected to pull Zitur, who made 11 saves on 13 shots, in favor of Strenge.
Johnson said the coaches thought long and hard as to who to start in goal, but given Zitur’s experience and the strength of his last game against Chanhassen, the net went to him.
“The first two goals were not on Ben,” Johnson said. “We came out a little timid in the first period. We were fumbling pucks and making passes at our heels instead of our sticks. Once they made it 2-0, we were looking to create a little spark.”
The Bison responded. Buffalo outshot Moorhead 13-12 in the second period, and held the zone for all two minutes of a power play midway through. Despite good chances, Moorhead sophomore goalie Lance Leonard stood tall in net.
Moorhead senior Jack Fahrendorf made it 3-0 scoring just 19 seconds after the Spuds survived the Bison onslaught with the man advantage.
“No doubt, that was a backbreaker,” Johnson said.
Buffalo senior Kevin Kemp was called early in period three for a 5-minute major for checking from behind. Sophomore Carter Randklev would ensure the victory scoring a pair of goals 22 seconds apart. The first of his two goals was a highlight-reel goal.
“Randklev was a difference maker,” Johnson said. “His first goal was Thomas Vanek-like. He pulled the puck through his legs and scored a highlight goal. He’s a special player and he’s only a sophomore.”
Buffalo’s season ended 11-12-3 overall. Four different times throughout the season the team reached the .500 mark, but only once did they climb above it following a 3-2 road win Dec. 17 at St. Francis.
“I’ve never coached a season where it’s gone so roller coaster,” Johnson said. “We always seemed to hover around that .500 mark. Every time we got some momentum going, it seemed like we would lose players to injuries. At one point we had five guys out with concussions. But the kids played hard and grew as a team. We just found ways not to win games.”
Buffalo 7, St. Francis 1
(Thursday, Feb. 11 at Buffalo)
Fighting Saints 0 1 0 - 1
Bison 2 2 3 - 7
First period: B -- Brady Hartman (Kevin Kemp, Nick Mueller) 5:57; B -- Mueller (Carter Patnode, Luke Ramsey) 16:10.
Second period: SF -- Reese Kaehler (Jordan Olson) PP, 1:49; B -- Kemp (Ben Lindvall, Mueller) 8:07; B -- Ramsey (Patnode, Conley Stumpfl) 14:09.
Third period: B -- Jon Pearson (Tom Rooney, Cade Stensby) 2:23; B -- Hartman (Kemp, Mueller) 4:27; B -- Stone Goodmanson (Connor Kuhlmann, Lindvall) 10:58.
Goalies: SF – Trent Lobeck (loss) 16 shots, 12 saves; B – Taylor Strenge (win) 13 shots, 12 saves; Shots: SF -- 6-7-0 – 13; B -- 12-4-14 – 30. Power Plays: SF – 1-2; B – 0-1.
Buffalo 2, Chanhassen 1
(Saturday, Feb. 13 at Buffalo)
Storm 0 1 0 - 1
Bison 2 0 0 - 2
First period: B -- Luke Ramsey (Brady Hartman, Kevin Kemp) PP, 5:35; B -- Stone Goodmanson (Ramsey) 10:19.
Second period: C -- Tommy Heiland (Colin Moser, Patrick Newell) 6:20.
Third period: No scoring.
Goalies: C – Taylor Thompson (loss) 28 shots, 26 saves; B – Ben Zitur (win) 22 shots, 21 saves; Shots: C -- 7-9-6 – 22; B -- 11-7-10 – 28. Power Plays: C – 0-2; B – 1-2.
Section 8AA Quarterfinals
(Tuesday, Feb. 16 at Moorhead)
Bison 0 0 0 - 0
Spuds 2 1 2 - 5
First period: M -- Cole O’Connell (Carter Randklev) PP, 4:05; M -- Nolan Westra (Jack Stetz) 12:07.
Second period: M -- Jack Fahrendorf (Stetz, Carson Kosobud) 10:41.
Third period: M -- Carter Randklev 5;24; M -- Randklev (Jack Stensgard, Patrick O’Connor) PP, 5:46.
Goalies: B – Ben Zitur (loss) 13 shots, 11 saves; B -- Taylor Strenge 25 shots, 22 saves; M – Lance Leonard (win) 21 shots, 21 saves; Shots: B -- 5-13-3 – 21; M -- 15-12-11 – 38. Power Plays: B – 0-7; M – 2-4.