Logan Ness (26) celebrates his second period goal for Moorhead, one of three in a span of 2:47 for the Spuds. Moorhead beat Buffalo, 5-1 in the Section 8AA quarterfinals (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).
Moorhead coach Dave Morinville discusses a botched icing call during the Spuds' 5-1 victory over Buffalo (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).
“Every year, it seems like we meet up in either the semifinals or the championship game,” said defenseman Terry Leabo, who got Moorhead on the board against Buffalo with a power play goal in the second period. “It’s either one of us winning to go to the state tournament every year.”
That’s not an exaggeration, either. For the past 14 years, Moorhead (7 appearances) and Roseau (7 appearances) have been the sole representatives out of Section 8AA. Last winter, the Rams beat Moorhead 2-1 in a heart-breaking section final for the Spuds.
“After the game in the locker room, it was rough. There was a lot of crying,” said junior Logan Ness, who had a goal and two assists against Buffalo. “That can’t happen this year.”
If history is any indication, Moorhead is right where it wants to be. The two teams split their regular season games, each winning on their own home ice. Roseau won 2-1 back on Dec. 14, while Moorhead claimed the rematch on Jan. 25, 6-1.
“We’re ready for the challenge,” said Moorhead coach Dave Morinville. “But I’m glad we’re playing in our home rink.”
Morinville knows his team can’t get off to a slow start as it did against Buffalo. While the Bison have struggled to score goals this season, Roseau has some big horses on its top line in Shane Omdahl, Josh Erickson and Travis Connell. That trio scored six goals in the playoff opener (four from Omdahl) and combined for 44 in the regular season.
Erickson and Connell each had a goal in Roseau’s Dec. 14 head-to-head victory over the Spuds – and both were out of the lineup with injuries when Moorhead took the second meeting in late January.
“It’s going to be a big challenge to stop those guys, but I like it when we have Michael Bitzer back there,” said Morinville.
Bitzer is the big equalizer in Moorhead’s net, as the junior has had an All-State caliber season. In two games against Roseau, he’s stopped 56 of 59 shots and has a 2.02 goals against and .930 save percentage overall. His presence has allowed Moorhead to play comfortably in its own defensive zone, while also giving defensemen like Leabo a chance to join the offensive rush when they see the opportunity.
As equal as the two teams’ successes have been in recent years, their current styles cater to different strengths. Roseau is arguably a stronger offensive team with its top line leading the way, whereas Moorhead is a more balanced and defensively stingier team. It makes for an interesting contrast in styles Saturday night.
One thing that won’t differ is the desire for a victory. It’s strong on both sides.
Ness, who powered Moorhead’s victory over Roseau in January with a hat trick, succinctly described the playoff history between Roseau and Moorhead.
No. 1 Bemidji 8, No. 8 River Lakes 2: Leading just 2-1 after two periods, top-seeded Bemidji exploded in the final period to end the upset bid of River Lakes. Brady Devescovi and Matt Serratore sparked the rally with two goals each. Max Hazelton and Tyler Follis each added a goal and two assists.
No. 3 Roseau 9, No. 6 Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake 0: It was too much Roseau, as the Rams rolled past Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake in the Section 8AA quarterfinals. Shane Omdahl had four goals and two assists for the Rams, who outshot the Moose, 52-8. Justin Anderson chipped in with two goals, while Jared Strand recorded an eight-save shutout.
No. 4 Brainerd 7, No. 5 St. Cloud Tech 0: Aaron Rich and Josh Archibald each scored two goals to lead Brainerd to a big shutout victory over St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8AA quarterfinals. Tech actually outshot the Warriors, 28-25, but Jared Stearns stopped every shot he faced in the Brainerd net.
Buffalo goaltender Blake Schmidt was on his game Tuesday, making 39 saves (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).
Second-seeded Moorhead scored three second-period goals within a span of 2:47 to break open a scoreless duel and roll past No. 7 Buffalo in the Section 8AA quarterfinals Tuesday night, 5-1.
After a scoreless first period, junior defenseman Terry Leabo got the Spuds (16-7-2) on the board with a power play tally at 6:17 of the second. Just over a minute later, Logan Ness batted a rebound out of the air for a 2-0 lead. Another minute later, Tony Uglem tipped in a pass from Leabo to make it 3-0.
Ness finished with a goal and two assists, while Uglem scored two goals and Leabo and Eric Brenk each had a goal and an assist. Jack Becker scored the lone goal for Buffalo (3-20-3).
Buffalo goaltender Blake Schmidt made 39 saves, while Michael Bitzer had 15 saves on 16 shots.
With the victory, the Spuds will host No. 3 Roseau in the Section 8AA semifinals on Saturday, Feb. 26. Last winter, Roseau beat Moorhead to advance to the state tournament. The two schools have claimed the last 14 section championships.
1. Terry Leabo, Moorhead
The junior defenseman was in the center of the action all night long in Moorhead's 5-1 victory over Buffalo. Leabo opened the scoring with a power play goal in the second period, then assisted on the third goal by Tony Uglem. His offensive instincts were strong while his defensive consistency kept the Bison from setting up in the Spuds' zone.
2. Logan Ness, Moorhead
Ness was actually benched for a shift or two by coach Dave Morinville in the first period -- and he admitted to giving the puck away on too many occasions. But the junior made up for it the rest of the game, scoring a goal and two assists.
3. Blake Schmidt, Buffalo
The Bison's junior goaltender was tested heavily and he came up big much of the night. Despite allowing five goals, he stopped 39 shots, some of them of the spectacular variety. He showed a quick glove hand, an area the Spuds tried to beat him on early and often.