skip navigation

Bison learning on fly against state's best

By Rob Laplante - Sports Editor - Wright County Journal, 12/13/17, 3:00PM CST


Jake Braccini attempts to corral a rebound

Joe McNamara matched up against one of the state's top forwards in Carter Randklev.

Ben Klein played a strong game against the third ranked Spuds.

Moorhead's Karson Kvalevog (left) and Buffalo's Devin Huebner (right) cross paths during last Saturday's 3-1 Moorhead road victory. Huebner scored Buffalo's lone goal. (Photo by Rob LaPlante)

A young Bison boys' hockey squad suffered a 5-1 road defeat last Thursday, Nov. 30 in Buffalo's season opener at Lakeville South.

With 13 skaters making their varsity debut, Buffalo was held to just two shots on goal and trailed 2-0 after the opening period.

Among the 13 newbies included 10 forwards and three defensemen – eight of which were sophomores, and one freshman.

The Cougars are a formidable opponent no matter who they play. Lakeville South is coming off a 19-win season and fourth place finish in last year's Class AA state tournament. Buffalo trailed 3-0 before Bison junior Nate Persson scored his first career varsity goal at the 14:49 mark of period two. Assisting on Persson's goal was sophomore Joe Carothers, who also registered his first varsity point.

Zach Bauer and Jack Novak scored twice in the third period to give the Cougars added insurance. Henry Welsch faced 22 shots for Lakeville South. Bison junior Nathan Mueller surrendered five goals on 29 shots.

Bison Head Coach Aaron Johnson used the opening game as a learning experience.

"I think what you saw last Thursday was a team that's young without much high school experience, and we played like one," Johnson said. "We made things really easy for Lakeville South last Thursday, but we came back with a good practice last Friday to fix some glaring issues."

The competition didn't get any easier in Buffalo's second game when No. 5 ranked Moorhead visited the Civic Center for a matinee home game last Saturday. The Spuds are also coming off a state tournament run a year ago, finishing second to Grand Rapids in Class AA. Moorhead returns most all of its key players from that team.

Thanks to a solid weekend of preparation and strong goaltending from Mueller, the Bison stood toe-to-toe with the Spuds until two late goals by Carter Randklev gave Moorhead a 3-1 road win.

While shots and puck possession heavily favored the road team, it was Buffalo's execution on defense and strong goaltending from Mueller that kept the score 1-0 throughout most the contest.

Mueller made several key saves to keep the game scoreless early on, but Jack Stetz finally broke through with a wrist shot that clipped the far corner past Mueller for a 1-0 lead 14:30 into period one.

Prior to that, Buffalo kept Moorhead's top line of Stetz, Randklev, and Cole O'Connell relatively quiet throughout the game.

The score remained 1-0 after two periods. After a penalty-free first period, Buffalo mustered no shots on two power-play attempts in period two.

Bison sophomore Devin Huebner eventually tied the score 1-1 with a power-play goal at 7:32 or period three. It was also Huebner's first career varsity goal, and first career point for sophomore Joe Carothers.

"We just kept throwing shots and going towards the net, but they were just blocking shots like every team should," Huebner said. "Coach pointed out they are probably one of the top teams in the state. We're a young team, but we have a good group. If we work hard and play to our ability, then we can play with these kind of teams."

Buffalo won the special teams battle, holding the Spuds' power play scoreless in four attempts. Johnson admitted, he held his breath every time one of his players skated to the penalty box.

"Their whole team makes you nervous – their power play especially," Johnson said. "They are scary up and down the lineup, but we did a nice job of getting focused with video and some reps on the ice leading up to this game on what they like to do. It's a little easier to scout their power play when they have all five guys back."

Johnson and the Spuds gave a ton of credit to Mueller for keeping the score low. Buffalo was outshot 31-17 in the game. But shots attempted were similar to a game last year where the Bison lost at Moorhead by an identical score, but Mueller stonewalled the Spuds as Buffalo was outshot that game 55-8.

"To us, it looked like the Moorhead kids were shooting knowing who was in goal," Johnson said. "They knew they had to be fine to beat him and they were missing the net. He was dialed in today, which is great for us."

"Every time that we've played Buffalo, their goaltender has been outstanding," said Moorhead head coach Jon Ammerman. "With their goaltending and their youth, there will be a large amount of growth for them over the next couple weeks. You don't really know what kind of team you have until about Christmas. The first couple weeks, guys get adjusted to the speed, which is a huge jump from bantams. I think this year down the stretch they will be a tough team to play."

Ammerman's squad was in a similar position two seasons ago when a number of their upperclassmen were first-year varsity players. This year's lineup now features one Division-I commit in junior defenseman Ethan Frisch (North Dakota), and Randklev, who recently de-committed from Arizona State and is looking to commit sometime during the season.

Randklev's goal with 3:49 left in regulation proved to be the game winner. He later added an empty-net goal making it 3-1.

While wins would have been nice, playing in front of a large home crowd and two top teams in the state was the perfect way for Huebner and the young Bison to open the season.

"Playing teams of this caliber gives you a chance to see what we need to work on," Huebner said. "There were twice as many people here than in Lakeville, so it made it more energetic."

It's attitudes like Huebner's and top-end skilled players in other sports as well as hockey that excites Johnson.

"That's what I like about this group is we have a lot of guys that love to play that are top competitors," he said. "You look at our team and we have guys that are top football players, top baseball players, and top lacrosse players.

You can see in the locker room, they are not satisfied with this loss. They want more and hopefully we get another chance at them later on."

Buffalo (0-2) hosted Rogers on Tuesday night in both teams' first conference game of the season.


Lakeville South 5

Buffalo 1

(Thursday, Nov. 30 at Lakeville)

Bison0  1  0  -   1

Cougars2  1  2  -   5

First period: LS -- Adam Harvey (Jack Olsen, Cade Ahrenholz) 6:39; LS -- Harvey 2 (Jack Novak, Olsen) 11:05.

Second period: LS -- Zack Oelrich (Novak) 5:02; B -- Nate Persson (Garrett Kothrade) 14:49.

Third period: LS -- Zach Bauer (Caden Smith) 1:26; LS -- Novak (Harvey, Ahrenholz) 9:09, PP.

Goalies: B – Nathan Mueller (loss) 29 shots, 24 saves; LS – Henry Welsch (win) 22 shots, 21 saves. Shots: B – 2-10-10 – 22; LS – 8-9-12 – 29. Power Plays: B – 0-5; LS – 1-5.


Moorhead 3, Buffalo 1

(Saturday, Dec. 2 at Buffalo)

Spuds1  0  2  -   3

Bison0  0  1  -   1

First period: M -- Jack Stetz (Carter Randklev, Ethan Frisch) 14:30.

Second period: No scoring.

Third period: B -- Devin Huebner (Joe Carothers) 7:32, PP; M -- Randklev (Stetz, Luke Gramer) 13:11; M -- Randklev 2 (Stetz, Cole O'Connell) 15:38.

Goalies: M – Lance Leonard (win) 17 shots, 16 saves; B – Nathan Mueller (loss) 31 shots, 28 saves. Shots: M – 9-6-16 – 31; B – 5-2-10 – 17. Power Plays: M – 0-4; B – 1-5.


Buffalo, Rogers

(Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Buffalo)

Royals1  0  2  -   3

Bison0  0  1  -   1

First period: M -- Jack Stetz (Carter Randklev, Ethan Frisch) 14:30.

Second period: No scoring.

Third period: B -- Devin Huebner (Joe Carothers) 7:32, PP; M -- Randklev (Stetz, Luke Gramer) 13:11; M -- Randklev 2 (Stetz, Cole O'Connell) 15:38.

Goalies: R – Lance Leonard (win) 17 shots, 16 saves; B – Nathan Mueller (loss) 31 shots, 28 saves. Shots: R – 9-6-16 – 31; B – 5-2-10 – 17. Power Plays: R – 0-4; B – 1-5.