For those who thought the Brainerd Warriors were catching the Moorhead Spuds at a vulnerable time they have another guess coming.
Moorhead, which handled the Warriors 4-2 in a Section 8-2A game Thursday night at Brainerd Area Civic Center, had lost five straight games. But the losses were to quality opponents — seventh-ranked Benilde-St Margaret’s (twice), No. 20 Centennial, No. 2 Wayzata and No. 13 Maple Grove.
“That’s kind of the point, and hopefully we take advantage of them,” Spuds coach Jon Ammerman said of scheduling competitive foes. “If we just go down there and we get tossed around, it doesn’t do much good, but we got better as those games progressed.
“Playing at that speed and playing against that strength of schedule really helps us out. Hopefully it continues to, but time will tell.”
The Spuds scored the game’s first four goals and outshot Brainerd 33-20 through two periods. They were spurred by senior center Aaron Herdt, who scored a natural hat trick (first three goals of the game). The goals were his 12th, 13th and 14th of the season.
“When he has the puck on his stick, good things happen,” Ammerman said. “He has speed that’s maybe a little bit above high school level.”
The Warriors, who played without second-leading scorer Cole Smith who was injured in a class at school, were outskated. Moorhead often went around or through Warrior defenders and won battles to loose pucks.
Moorhead cashed in on two power plays in five attempts while the Warriors were 1-8 with a man advantage.
“I’ve got two words — heart and desire,” Warriors coach Jim Archibald said.
“Obviously, we weren’t at our best,” he added. “We haven’t been at our best here the past two or three games. Obviously we need to find some answers, and we need to find them quick, so we’ll get back to the drawing board here tomorrow add try to figure things out.”
The final could have been more lopsided if not for the effort of Warriors’ goalie Brady Mick, who made 32 saves, many on challenging shots. After a 6-1-0 start, Brainerd has lost four of its last five.
“Brady played well, he was good,” Archibald said. “We had two or three other guys who played well for us tonight but unfortunately we’re going to need 15 to 16 guys if we want to get to where we want to be.”
A 3-goal second period, during which the Spuds outshot Brainerd 17-9 and tallied on two power plays, put a victory out of the Warriors’ grasp. Herdt scored his second goal of the game just 1:01 into the second.
Exactly six minutes later, he registered his natural hat trick on a power play, taking a cross-ice pass from Alex Schmidt and scoring top shelf.
The Warriors were unable to connect during a 2-man advantage shortly after and Moorhead made them pay on another power play. The Spuds’ Jack Fahrendorf tucked the puck behind Mick after he had dropped to the ice to try to make a save.
The Spuds jumped on the offensive immediately in the first, outshooting Brainerd 16-11 and applying constant pressure on Mick.
Austin Skjefte broke in all alone on Mick at 1:46 but he stonewalled Skjefte with a fabulous glove save.
About four minutes later, the Spuds were short-handed but Mick stifled a 2-on-1 rush.
At 10:53 of the first, Moorhead opened the scoring. Jacob Odegard split two Warrior defenders and flicked a shot that Mick stopped but Herdt was parked to Mick’s left and tapped in the rebound.
Brainerd’s Chris Pohlkamp and Nate DeChaine tallied in the final period.
Moorhead 1 3 0 — 4
Brainerd 0 0 2 — 2
First period: M-Aaron Herdt (Jacob Odegard, Alex Erickson) 10:53
Second period: M-Herdt (Odegard, Alex Mehnert) 1:01; M-Herdt (Alex Schmidt, Will Borgen) ppg 7:01; M-Jack Fahrendorf (Mehnert, Eli Johnson) ppg 15:21
Third period: Brd-Chris Pohlkamp (Griffin Campbell, Peter Dahl) 3:37; Brd-Nate DeChaine (Matt Blanch, Logan Rivard)
Shots on goal: Brd 11-9-13—33, M 16-17-3—36
Goalies: Brd-Brady Mick (32 saves); M-Jacob Dittmer (31 saves).