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Breck falls from unbeatens

By Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA, 01/14/12, 8:00PM CST


Moorhead's four-goal first period enough for victory over No. 1A Mustangs

Moorhead's Tony Uglem (10) celebrates his third-period goal which gave the Spuds a 5-3 lead against previously unbeaten and No. 1A Breck. Photos by Tim Kolehmainen.

Thomas Carey (27) stuffs in a first-period goal for Moorhead.

All season Moorhead coach Dave Morinville has been imploring his team to start a game quickly -- and finish it just as fast.

Turns out the way to bring that sweet music to his ears was screamo.

Instead of their usual pregame rap session, defenseman Jake Uglem brought in a new – and loud – musical selection.

With the screaming lead vocals of the aforementioned hardcore punk genre ringing in their ears, the No. 8AA Spuds (11-3-0) banged in four first-period goals in a 5-3 victory over No. 1A Breck (11-1-0) Saturday night, Jan. 14.

“We knew we had to have a good start because we didn’t want to battle back against this team,” said senior captain Bryant Christian, who gave a thumbs up to Uglem for his pump-up music – then proceeded to score the game’s opening goal before most fans had even found their seats.

The pregame scream may not have sounded like sweet music to Morinville, but he finally got his wish – at least one of them.

“We have struggled in the first period and we addressed it,” said Morinville, who also reinforced his idea with a few hard-skating practices this week. “Our guys rose to the challenge.”

Christian provided the first burst, as he got the Spuds off and running, scoring just 1 minute, 35 seconds into the game. He wheeled into the Breck zone, let the traffic flow by him, then ripped a shot over goaltender Jack Kenney’s blocker. Just like that, the Spuds had the first goal for only the third time in the last seven games.

“Christian made a nice one to start us off with some confidence there,” said Morinville.

The Spuds followed it up with goals from Cody Rahman, Logan Ness and Thomas Carey over the next few minutes – and the rout was seemingly on.

“We did a good job of getting the puck in deep and we were right on them,” said Christian. “We didn’t give them the opportunity to get going.”

“You can’t spot a good team four goals,” Breck coach Les Larson said.

The Spuds have had some nice early-season results, but more often than not they’ve been forced to rally from an early deficit. It happened over the holidays when Moorhead took third place in the Hockey Holiday Classic in St. Louis Park – coming from behind in a victory over No. 7AA Eden Prairie and in an eventual last-minute loss to No. 6AA Benilde-St. Margaret’s.

It happened on a trip to No. 1AA Duluth East, a game in which the Spuds couldn’t fully recover from a 3-0 first-period deficit.

It happened again Tuesday night in a victory over Brainerd, as Moorhead was down 1-0 after the first period and eventually won 4-1.

“We have to come out better in the first periods (of games),” said Morinville, reciting that litany of slow starts. “We were getting behind and just digging ourselves a hole. We’d battle back, but it was an uphill battle every game.”

Saturday night, however, the tables were turned. Breck rallied with three straight goals to cut the lead to 4-3 early in the third before Tony Uglem’s power play goal gave Moorhead some breathing room.

“We’ve been very sporadic,” Morinville said. “Playing a couple of periods here and a period there. (We thought) the game was over after it was 4-0. Some of our guys took some time off, and you can’t do that against a good team like this.”

Morinville got his first wish. If he can get the second from his team, the Spuds will contend with anyone.

Quick hits

Goaltender Jack Kenney (37) has been a big reason Breck started the season with 11 straight victories.

Breck falls from unbeatens

Saturday’s loss was the first of the season for Breck, which had won its first 11 games. The Mustangs were one of just three teams to enter Saturday's play with an unbeaten mark – joining  No. 1AA Duluth East and No. 2A Hermantown.

“The big question is, ‘How are we going to react?’” asked Breck coach Les Larson after the game.

“Hopefully we learned something. You have to play like somebody is going to take something away from you … and you can’t spot good teams four goals.”

Breck did rally over the final two periods, getting two special-teams goals from speed merchant Grant Opperman and cutting the lead to 4-3. But it was too deep a hole to dig out of for the Mustangs.

“You probably learn more from losing than you do from winning,” Larson said. “The nice thing about hockey is there is always another practice. There is always another game. You can start from scratch and redeem yourselves.”

Grant Opperman (14) scored twice for Breck, which suffered its first loss of the season.

Statistics, summary

Game recap

Paced by a four-goal first period, No. 8AA Moorhead held on to beat No. 1A Breck 5-3, handing the Mustangs' their first loss of the season on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Moorhead Sports Center.

The Spuds (11-3-0) shocked Breck (11-1-0) by taking a 4-0 lead after 17 minutes of play on goals by Bryant Christian, Cody Rahman, Logan Ness and Thomas Carey.

Moorhead outshot the Mustangs 13-5 in the opening stanza, getting on the board just 1 minute, 35 seconds into the game on Christian's goal. Moorhead's senior captain cut back against the grain after crossing the blue line, letting traffic pass him by, then ripped a quick wrister over the blocker of Breck goaltender Jack Kenney.

But Moorhead wasn't done. Midway through the first, Rahman scored off a face off to push the lead to 2-0.

Ness and Carey scored mirror-like goals 3 minutes, 7 seconds apart late in the period. Ness stepped through a check in the left corner and fired a low shot off the far post. Carey capped the scoring by swinging out of the right corner and hammering home a rebound shot.

Breck recovered to score the next three goals, getting second-period tallies from Grant Opperman and Wesley Iverson. Opperman scored his second of the game 3 minutes, 58 seconds into the third period to cut the lead to 4-3. His shorthanded rush came while Keegan Iverson was off for a 5-minute checking from behind penalty (Iverson was also ejected).

But with one second left on Iverson's penalty, Tony Uglem rang a shot off the far post and in, regaining the Spuds' two-goal lead.

Michael Bitzer made 26 saves for Moorhead, while Kenney had 28 saves for the Mustangs.

1. Bryant Christian, Moorhead
With coach Dave Morinville imploring his team to get off to a fast start, his senior captain provided just that. Only 1 minute, 35 seconds into the game, Christian crossed the blue line, faded back towards the high slot and ripped a shot over Jack Kenney's blocker to give the Spuds a 1-0 lead. Moorhead carried that momentum to a four-goal first period, just enough to hold off the top-ranked Mustangs.

2. Grant Opperman, Breck
It's tough to say when Opperman was most dangerous -- on the power play or while shorthanded. He scored Breck's first goal while the Mustangs had a man advantage, but his most impressive moments came while Breck was shorthanded in the third period. Opperman split two Spuds' defensemen with his speed and roofed a shot to cut the lead to 4-3. He also had another shorthanded chance later in the third, but was denied.

3. Terry Leabo, Moorhead
Staked to a four-goal lead, Moorhead had to hang on for dear life while Breck rallied over the final two periods. It helped to have an anchor like Leabo on the blue line, as he slowed the Mustangs' top forward lines and jumpstarted the Spuds' offense with good puck movement out of his zone.

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