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Lifelong Learning

Moorhead High boys hockey team ends season at state tournament

March 13, 2019

Edina Hornets 4 - Moorhead Spuds 2. That was the final score to Moorhead High’s opening game in the 2019 Minnesota Boys Hockey State Tournament on March 7 at the Xcel Center in St. Paul.

The Edina Hornets scored first on their second shot on goal just 57 seconds into the first period. Moorhead spent much of the rest of the period on the penalty kill. Three penalties left the Spuds with their backs to the wall as the top-rated Edina team got its second goal with only 9 seconds left in the man advantage.

Moorhead High’s Cullen Jess scored at 1:29 into the second period to cut the lead. Edina scored its third goal of the game less than 4 minutes later.

From then on the game was played tight by both teams. With stingy defense out front and stellar goaltending from Hudson Hodges, Moorhead held it close until late into the third period. Moorhead had chances throughout the remainder of the game, but strong play by the Edina goaltender and some very near misses left the Spuds coming up short.

Late in the third period, Moorhead Head Coach Jon Ammerman called time out. In the post-game interview Ammerman said he couldn’t recall what he said, but it worked.

Coming out of the timeout, Nolan Westra cut Edina’s lead to one with a shot from the top of the circle. For the rest of the period, the Spuds increased the pressure and pushed the pace. With time running out, Moorhead pulled its goalie looking to create an advantage, but despite repeated attempts was unable to push in the tying goal.

With only seconds left on the clock, Edina finally got control of the puck and scored the empty netter to make the final 4-2.

After the game in the press conference, Ammerman talked about the penalties. “They (Edina) are extremely dynamic and sometimes a penalty is a good play,” he said. He later said, “I didn’t care for a few of the calls, but every coach is going to tell you that. I look at the game biased just like any other coach, but what led to the penalties is that their guys are really fast.”

On March 8 at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena, Moorhead was pitted against the Duluth East Greyhounds. The game would see the Spuds’ season end.

Moorhead opened the scoring early in the first period when Nolan Westra scored his second goal of the tournament to grab the lead. Moorhead continued to hound Duluth East throughout the remainder of the period but without anything to show for it.

Late in the second period, the Spuds were hit with a five-minute major penalty that gave the Greyhounds the man advantage. With the extra player, Duluth East was able to control play and keep the puck in the Moorhead end of the ice most of the time, adding two goals to take the lead. The Spuds were able to get a two-on-one short-handed rush during the penalty but again were unable to make it count.

Duluth East added a third goal in the third period for a 3-1 lead. Moorhead’s Max Dronen scored his second goal of the year when he added one in the third period to close the gap to 3-2, but that was as close as the Spuds would get.

Despite some who questioned whether the Spuds deserved to be in the tournament, Ammerman said the team proved it belonged. As with many teams that start a season with doubts by fans and pundits alike, this team was referred to as “over achieving.” This team did not over achieve, they achieved. They worked hard, they learned to play together, and they achieved.

Photos: Moorhead High’s Nolan Westra celebrates his goal during the third period of the Minnesota Boys Hockey State Tournament on March 7 at the Xcel Center in St. Paul. Photo credit: Bill Grover

Moorhead High’s Max Dronen (26) blasts one in, scoring his second goal of the season during the third period of the consolation round of the Minnesota Boys Hockey State Tournament on March 8 at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena. Photo credit: Renée Grover

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