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Sun is real enemy in two slushy games

By David La Vaque, Star Tribune, 02/12/11, 12:38AM CST


As the ice condition worsened, Hill-Murray and Moorhead had to play their marquee matchup with more caution than creativity.

Roseau's Josh Erickson, left, and Wayzata's Matt Halverson battled for the puck in the first game of Hockey Day Minnesota in Moorhead. Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

MOORHEAD, MINN. – Hockey Day Minnesota, an annual, all-day celebration of the sport, shined the spotlight on Moorhead, a tradition-rich hockey town on the North Dakota border.

Unfortunately, the sun also shone bright Saturday, turning spots of the outdoor rink’s ice to mush that hampered Game 1 between Wayzata and Roseau and made Game 2 between Hill-Murray and the host Spuds a hazard.

Both games were decided by one goal. No. 7 Wayzata (16-5-2) escaped Roseau 2-1 on a shorthanded goal in overtime from Marc Richards while Hill-Murray’s Ben Bahe streaked in to score with about five minutes remaining in a 3-2 victory against Moorhead (14-7-2).

About 5,000 tickets were sold for the event, held at the Moorhead Youth Hockey Rink, and the key draw was the afternoon game between the Spuds and the

No. 1-ranked Pioneers. Both teams are favored to win their sections and advance to the Class 2A state tournament, making Saturday’s game important for building momentum.

But with the ice deteriorating, players on both teams were forced to play with more caution than creativity.

“I think the ice took the edge off both teams,” said Moorhead’s Bryant Christian, who scored early in the third period to tie the score 2-2. “We were just trying to keep it simple because on that kind of ice, you couldn’t stick-handle.”

Hill-Murray grabbed the game’s first lead as J.D. Cotroneo knocked in a rebound at 6:45 of the first period. There was no scoring for the remainder of the period. Then ice issues began threatening whether there would be more game.

Rink manager Dennis Bushy said the outdoor rink, which was built last season thanks to a donation from Moorhead native and Wild forward Matt Cullen, is a regulation-sized 85 feet in width but only 185 feet (15 short of regulation) in length. As a result, Bushy shortened the neutral zone but left both zones regulation size.

The zones began to shrink halfway through the second period as ice around the goal on the north side became unplayable. Officials who tried in vain to fix the situation during the first intermission decided to move the goal several feet closer to the blue line and play on.

Moorhead’s Eric Brenk tied the score 1-1 at 8:57 of the second period after the Pioneers’ Luke Voltin wiped out on a bad patch of ice and lost the puck. A potential second Spuds goal was disallowed because officials ruled a Moorhead player was in the goal crease.

Then Bob Bruski restored a 2-1 Pioneers lead at 10:14 after burying a pass from Jake Guentzel.

“It was like boot hockey with a tennis ball,” Bruski said. “We like to make five passes, but today we had to keep it simple.”

Christian tied the score 2-2 early in the third period, but the early goal and recharged crowd failed to unnerve the visiting Pioneers. They held serve until Bahe streaked in from the right side and put a puck past goaltender Michael Bitzer with about five minutes remaining.

Bright sunshine had players on both teams and officials wearing eye black. Starting in the north end goal, Hill-Murray goaltender Tim Shaughnessy even wore sunglasses for a few minutes.

Roseau goaltender Jared Strand was in the north end goal when Wayzata’s Richards scored the winner in overtime. But Strand didn’t blame the sun’s glare; he simply couldn’t stop a well-executed Trojans faceoff play.

“I saw it; I just couldn’t get there,” Strand said.

Rink crews tried to repair the ice between the second and third period of the Hill Murray-Moorhead game. The warm temps melted the ice in front of the creases and blue lines. Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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