James McNamara celebrates his shorthanded goal
Jerame Schuetzle gets physical with Oriole oppenent
Ben Zitur split his first two games as the Bison #1 goalie
The Buffalo Bison will have to get accustomed to traveling on game days. That is because Bison’s schedule has the team playing four straight games on the road to open the season. Through two of those games, Buffalo is even at 1 - 1.
Buffalo traveled to Osseo to open the season against a veteran Oriole squad. With senior captain Gunnar Goodmanson sidelined, Buffalo had 11 players seeing their first action as a varsity regular. Add sophomore sniper Blake Habisch and sophomore d-man Nick Mueller to the list of unavailable players and the Bison needed every player to step-up.
And the Bison got off to a great start when sophomore forward Cade Stensby deposited a Reed Morehouse rebound on his first varsity shift.
But Osseo regained the momentum after the Orioles’ Eric Lyons found a short-side hole through Bison goalie Ben Zitur to even the score on the powerplay. Osseo struck again two minutes later when Anthony Fetzek turned a Bison turnover into a breakaway goal.
Coach Aaron Johnson was not surprised by the first period jitters, “we have some very important pieces returning but we are still an inexperienced group. We are talented and deep but largely new to varsity hockey.”
The second period saw the Orioles extend the lead to 4-1 on goals by Mason Hautala and Zach Heiser. But the play evened out throughout the period as the Bison found their footing. Senior James McNamara scored his first varsity goal on a shorthanded breakaway to cut into the Osseo lead. Junior Brady Hartman sprung McNamara for the breakaway to pick up the only assist.
The Bison felt they outplayed the Orioles in the second half of the game but had a tough time beating goalie Derek Linderholm. The Bison pulled within a goal in with just seven seconds remaining in the game. Junior Kevin Kemp, Buffalo’s best forward in the game, also scored his first goal in a varsity sweater after knocking home a loose puck with the goalie pulled. Assists went to Tom ‘Rusty’ Rooney and Jerame Schuetzle.
Osseo took the game 4-3 and soured the promising start. Coach Johnson was disappointed but optimistic after the game, “we did some good things tonight. Three guys get their first goals and a lot of guys got to experience the pace of a regular season varsity game. We weren’t always sharp and weren’t great within our system but we will be better very soon.”
Buffalo’s second road trip took them to the Brainerd Area Civic Center to face-off with the Brainerd Warriors in an important Section 8AA showdown.
In their second outing, the Bison were sharper and outplayed the Warriors throughout the game. Buffalo’s power-play got the scoring started six minutes into the game. Senior Jerame Schuetzle banged home a rebound from Kevin Kemp booming slapper and the Bison never looked back.
The Warrior’s best chances came in the first period but goaltender Ben Zitur rebounded from a so-so first start to shut down Brainerd’s offense. “Zitur was as sharp as I’ve ever seen him tonight,” said Coach Johnson, “he was a difference maker and we gained confidence and momentum from his play.” Zitur finished with 31 saves and the shutout.
Schuetzle tallied his second goal of the period five minute later. Several Bison crashed the net to pounce on a point shot from senior TIm Pearson. Schuetzle found the puck and jammed it home to give the Bison a 2-0 lead.
Kemp benefitted from a strange play early in the second period. While on the penalty kill, Kemp was credited with a shorthanded goal when a Warrior player mistakenly passed the puck into his own net, extending the lead to three.
Senior assistant captain Jake Ramsey got back into the scoring column with a highlight reel goal. Ramsey rolled out of the corner up the right wall then he cut to the net and split two Warrior defenders before sneaking the puck between goalie Brady Mick and the near post.Assists went to Nick Mueller and Schuetzle.
Coach Johnson was proud of his team’s effort. “We played hard. But the difference between game one and two was that we were so much sharper and our goalie was better. Overall, it was a very good win.”
Buffalo hopes that the momentum will carry over to a pair of upcoming Section 8AA games. The Bison travel to Monticello and Moorhead this Thursday and Saturday.