Jon Pearson’s power-play goal tied the score 2-2 midway through the first period.
By Rob LaPlante
Outside of a poor opening four minutes that saw the visiting MAML Moose jump to an early 2-0 advantage, Saturday’s 4-2 home win on Dec. 5 provided the Buffalo boys’ hockey squad with a number of firsts.
MAML – a co-op between the schools of Monticello, Annandale, and Maple Lake – scored twice in the early stages of the contest on goals by Caleb Dilley and Luke Frucci. It marked the third time in three games the Bison have trailed by at least a 2-0 margin. Buffalo fell behind 3-0 in two previous losses to Osseo and Brainerd.
Senior goalie Ben Zitur has been the victim of the three slow starts – a trend he said needs to change.
“We just have to get our heads into the game from the start,” Zitur said. “We have to come out and get our minds a little better off the ice and that should carry over into the games.”
After a sluggish start, junior Carter Patnode cut the lead to 2-1 just 27 seconds after MAML’s second goal. The Bison tied the score 2-2 at the 8:30 mark of the period with a power-play tally from junior defenseman Jon Pearson, who found a lane and fired a wrist shot from the right point that beat MAML goalie Connor Bird.
Both goals were the first career varsity scores for Pearson and Patnode. Pearson’s goal also marked the first tally this season for the Bison with the man advantage.
After starting the season 0-7 on the power play, Bison head coach Aaron Johnson elected to make a few changes. Moving Pearson to the top unit was one of them.
“We made some changes to put some guys in different positions to see if we could get some results,” Johnson said. “Jon’s got a really good, heavy shot. You could see on his goal, he kind of snapped it off and he’s got a hard enough snap to get it through traffic and get it into the net.”
Juniors Cade Stensby and Nick Mueller assisted on Pearson’s game-tying goal. Pearson – the younger brother of last year’s defenseman Tim Pearson, credited good puck movement for his goal.
“We did a lot of team work which led to the goal,” Pearson said. “We were passing it around the point well and kept moving the puck. It paid off in the end. It feels good to get that first goal.”
Both teams skated to the first intermission tied 2-2. If not for the solid play of Bird in net for MAML, the Bison could have easily had a half dozen goals. Buffalo peppered Bird for 20 shots through 17 minutes.
The onslaught continued into the second period. The Bison controlled the tempo throughout the middle 17 minutes, but once again, Bird stood tall. Both teams were tied 2-2 through two periods, despite a 37-9 shot differential in favor of the home squad.
Although Buffalo’s second line was held off the scoresheet, juniors Tom Rooney, and Blake Habisch, and senior Gavin Welch were creating all sorts of headaches for a bigger, but slower Moose defense corps.
“Their speed definitely stood out,” Johnson said. “We don’t have the biggest group of forwards, but we have some good skaters up front. Even without the puck, our message was to take away time and space by getting on the forecheck, or being hard on the backcheck. I thought we did that and it made it tough for MAML to get out of their zone. A really good effort by our whole group.”
With 4:24 remaining in regulation, Buffalo finally solved Bird on a perfect cross-ice setup from Pearson to senior captain Brady Hartman, who one-timed a shot past Bird to notch the eventual game winner.
The goal came on the 47th shot of the game for the Bison. Even though they were stonewalled for most the game, Pearson said it was only a matter of time.
“We knew if we kept shooting, eventually it would come,” Pearson said.
While Bird was doing everything on one end to preserve a tie score, Buffalo’s goalie had to stay focused on the other end having faced only a dozen shots at the time of Hartman’s goal.”
“It’s hard mentally staying in those type of games,” said Zitur, who recorded his first victory in net this season, making 13 saves on 15 MAML shots. “You have to keep your mind occupied with the little things – sharp movements, stuff like that – instead of thinking of the big picture.”
Zitur would later record his first career varsity assist when he relayed the puck to junior Stone Goodmanson, who found junior Luke Ramsey who scored into the empty net. It was Ramsey’s second goal of the season and Goodmanson’s second assist of the game. Buffalo outshot MAML 51-15 earning its first win of the season.
Junior Tom Rooney’s goal at 4:17 broke a 2-2 third-period tie, lifting the Bison to a 3-2 road win Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Delano.
Junior Stone Goodmanson and senior Conley Stumpfl also scored as the Bison upset the seventh-ranked team in Class A. John Keranen and Jesse Lawman scored for the Tigers (4-2).
Buffalo (2-2) hosts STMA (1-1-1) Thursday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.
Buffalo 4, MAML 2
(Saturday, Dec. 5 at Buffalo)
Moose 2 0 0 - 2
Bison 2 0 2 - 4
First period: M -- Caleb Dilley (Ryan Ashwill) 2:37; M -- Ville Salovaara (Charlie Voller) 3:44; B -- Carter Patnode (Stone Goodmanson, Nick Mueller) 4:11; B -- Jon Pearson (Cade Stensby, Nick Mueller) PP, 8:30.
Second period: No scoring.
Third period: B -- Brady Hartman (Pearson) 12:36; B -- Luke Ramsey (Goodmanson, Ben Zitur) EN, 15:53.
Goalies: M – Connor Bird (loss) 50 shots, 46 saves; B – Ben Zitur (win) 15 shots, 13 saves. Shots: M – 7-2-6 – 15; B – 20-17-13 – 51. Power Plays: M – 0-1; B – 1-4.
Buffalo 3, Delano 2
(Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Delano)
Bison 0 2 1 - 3
Tigers 1 1 0 - 0
First period: D -- John Keranen (Justin Daly).
Second period: B -- Stone Goodmanson (Nick Mueller, Blake Habisch) PP, 7:42; B -- Conley Stumpfl (Gavin Welch, Carter Patnode) 13:49; D -- Jesse Lawman (Ben Meyers, Kyle Ylitalo) 13:59.
Third period: B -- Tom Rooney (Blake Hanisch, Stone Goodmanson), 4:17.
Goalies: B – Ben Zitur (win) 28 shots, 26 saves; D – Andrew Hance (loss) 28 shots, 25 saves. Shots: B – 5-15-8 – 28; D – 13-5-10 – 28. Power Plays: B – 1-5; D – 0-2.