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Boys Hockey: Spuds break Warriors' hearts in semifinals

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MOORHEAD – No author could write the Moorhead Spuds boys hockey fairy tale as well as it played out Saturday night in the Section 8-2A semifinals against the Brainerd Warriors.

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There was the second-period battle that resulted in 14 penalty minutes. And then the unlikely hero on the Spuds’ third line opened the scoring early in the third, only to see the lead disappear with less than three minutes to go.

The senior captain then came to the rescue with 1 minute, 10 seconds, to go to give second-seeded Moorhead a 2-1 win and a date with Roseau for the section championship.

The words simply wouldn’t justify the tale.

“You can’t write it better than this,” Moorhead senior captain Aaron Herdt said. “It was perfect.”

In a 1-1 game with 1:10 to go, Herdt picked off a pass in the neutral zone with fellow senior captain Grant Weiss trailing him to his left and one Brainerd defender between them. Herdt held the puck for what seemed like an eternity, the Brainerd defender dove to the ice and Herdt slid the puck to Weiss.

Game over.

“Once the defender went to the ice, it was wide open,” Herdt said. “We talked in the locker room about finding quiet ice and he did. It would have been great for anyone to get that goal, but it was special for me and Grant.”

From quiet ice, Weiss blasted in a loud goal.

“It was just a perfect (pass) right over to my stick and I put it in the back of the net,” Weiss said. “It was a good play by (Herdt).”

The loss ended Brainerd’s season with a 16-8-2 mark.

“They left everything on the ice. It was a great effort,” Warriors coach Jim Archibald said. “We had chances, we had opportunities, but we had what they call ‘No puck luck.’ It was a great game, nothing-nothing after two. It was up and down, physical hockey.

“As coaches, we’re proud to be a part of this team. This team has nothing to hang its head about. Everyone took the loss very hard.”

Thanks to 19 saves by Brainerd goalie Brady Mick and 16 saves from Moorhead goalie Jacob Dittmer, the game was scoreless through two periods.

Moorhead’s third line looked like the unlikely hero. Six minutes into the third, Jayden Masseth’s wraparound bounced off Mick and Justin Keller was there to slam it home to put Moorhead on top 1-0.

Keller and Masseth combined for seven points the entire regular season.

“We know that top line is going to score for us,” Moorhead coach Jon Ammerman said. “If we can find somebody on those other lines to put a few goals in, we like our chances.”

It looked as though, for Saturday anyway, that Moorhead had found it. That was until Jake Ellingson found the back of the net with 2:49 left to tie it for Brainerd.

Then, the Spuds’ senior captains took over the ship to send the Spuds to the section title game.

“Our seniors just laid it out there,” Ammerman said. “That’s what you hope, late in a game that those guys, your best players on the ice, are going to make a play.”

Moorhead will take on top-seeded Roseau at 7 p.m. Wednesday at a location to be determined. It’s like de ja vu all over again, as either the Spuds or the Rams have won 23 of the last 24 section titles, including 16 straight, with the last three going to the Spuds.

Brainerd 0 0 1 — 0

Moorhead 0 0 2 — 2

First period: No scoring.

Second period: No scoring.

Third period: 1, M-Justin Keller (Jayden Masseth), 6:01. 2, B-Jake Ellingson (Chris Pohlkamp), 14:11. 3, M-Grant Weiss (Aaron Herdt), 15:50.

Shots on goal: Brd 9-7-9-25, Moor 7-12-10–29

Goalies: Brd, Brady Mick (27 saves), Moor, Jacob Dittmer (24 saves)

Overall: Brd finishes 16-8-2, Moor 13-12-1. Next: Moorhead vs. No. 1 Roseau for Section 8-2A championship at neutral site 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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