By Rob LaPlante Sports Editor
MAML Moose head coach Sheldon Weston came into last Thursday’s boys hockey showdown at Buffalo knowing they had to stop the Bison’s high scoring junior line of Jake Ramsey, Gunnar Goodmanson and Jerame Schuetzle.
Coming off an emotional 4-3 overtime win on Dec. 3 at St. Francis, Weston said his team has struggled offensively out of the gate this year, but defensively, they did a good job containing the Saints’ top line.
“(St. Francis’) top line is very good. But after that, it drops off a bit,” Weston said. “Kind of like the top line here (Buffalo). They move the puck well, they are fast, and if you can control the top line, you will do well against them.”
Buffalo had previously scored at least four goals in each of its previous three outings. For two periods, the string of four goals appeared in jeopardy. The Moose held the Bison’s top line in check for most the game, but senior Kody O’Neill broke the scoreless game at the 9:30 mark of the second period sweeping home a loose puck past Moose goalie Darien Jones.
It was the first career varsity goal for O’Neill, who was assisted on the play by senior linemate Wilson Anderle.
“I honestly didn’t expect it,” said O’Neill, describing the goal. “It hit off the edge of my skate blade and I fanned on the first shot. The goalie bit on that whiff. Once I saw the open net, I just threw it in. It really helped out the team and gave us some energy.”
The goal gave the Bison a 1-0 lead heading to the final period. The momentum appeared to create more energy from the Bison’s top line. A defensive minded game turned into a third period shootout. Both teams combined for a five-goal third period, and the Bison improved to 3-0-1 overall with a 4-2 victory.
With the Moose having to break their defensive shell to try and generate more offense, the Bison’s top line took advantage of the situation and had a hand in all three third-period goals.
Schuetzle made it 2-0, with Goodmanson assisting. Goodmanson extended the lead to 3-0 with Ramsey and junior Reed Morehouse assisting. Both goals came on the power play.
“I think for the most part we defended them well,” Weston said. “We took too many penalties. It’s tough to keep guys down when you’re playing shorthanded.”
Buffalo’s power play converted on 2-of-5 attempts. It proved to be the difference in a defensive struggle.
“I don’t think we were at our best to start the game, but you have to give a little credit to them,” said Bison head coach Aaron Johnson. “We didn’t have a great start and we didn’t have a great finish. Luckily in-between we found a way to win a hockey game.”
Johnson was quick to point out Anderle’s line as one of the keys to the game.
“Wilson is so smart in all three zones and does all the little things for us,” Johnson said. “He’s been playing great all year and it was nice to see his line get rewarded with a beautiful goal by Kody.”
Ramsey scored the Bison’s fourth goal, squeezed between a pair of MAML goals scored by Sam Johnson and Justin Wilson.
“I think the main thing was just beating the Moose. It’s a big rival of ours and we really don’t like them,” said O’Neill, with a chuckle. “It was a nice conference win.”
The undefeated streak ended at four games when perennial Class AA power Moorhead came to the Civic Center last Saturday and defeated the Bison 5-1.
Although the Spuds came in unrated, Moorhead has been a regular visitor when it comes to the state tournament. First period goals by Austin Skjefte and Alex Mehnert gave the visitors a quick 2-0 advantage. They extended their lead to 5-0 on a pair of second-period goals by Aaron Herdt and Mehnert’s second goal of the game. Morehouse broke the shutout late that period with an unassisted goal to make it 5-1.
The Bison (3-1-1 overall) were outshot 33-20 in the game. Senior goalie Mikey Otten stopped 28 shots.
Buffalo is next in action at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12 when they host St. Michael-Albertville. Saturday at 7 p.m. they host Cambridge-Isanti.