Boys Hockey: Spuds hold off Warriors 3-2 in final

Moorhead 3, Warriors 2 Key: Top-seeded Spuds scored all three of their goals in a span of 2:35 of the second period to win the Section 8-2A title. Overall: Brd 19-9, M 21-6-1 BEMIDJI--The Brainerd Warrior boys hockey team had many great memories ...

Moorhead 3, Warriors 2

Key: Top-seeded Spuds scored all three of their goals in a span of 2:35 of the second period to win the Section 8-2A title.

Overall: Brd 19-9, M 21-6-1


BEMIDJI-The Brainerd Warrior boys hockey team had many great memories in the almost 1,500 minutes they played this season, but it's a span of 2:35 that they would like to forget.


That's the time it took the top-seeded Moorhead Spuds to score their only three goals late in the second period in a 3-2 victory over No. 3 Brainerd in the Section 8-2A championship Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the Sanford Center.

Nolan Westra netted the first goal while Tomas Horan scored the next two as the Spuds grabbed a 3-0 lead at 11:57 of the second period. Brainerd made it close on Mason Kruse's goal with 1:59 left in the period, and then Brady Anderson cut the deficit to 3-2 with a slap shot into the Moorhead net at 6:06 of the third period.

"Mike Laber made a pass into the slot, I saw an opening, and the goalie (Hudson Hodges) was screened," Anderson said of the goal. "We worked hard, but didn't have any pucks bounce our way at the end."

It was the Warriors' fourth section final loss in program history, including three setbacks against the Spuds in the past eight seasons.

"Brainerd played well as everyone was finally healthy for them," Moorhead coach Jon Ammerman said. "We were really holding on in the end."

The opening period was scoreless, but there was plenty of action as the teams combined for 22 shots. The Warriors had an early 5-1 edge in shots as Wyatt Andres skated in and was stopped by Hodges midway through the period.

The Spuds came close to scoring with 4:55 remaining in the period when Luke Gramer's shot was stopped by Warrior netminder Luke Saiko, but the puck trickled behind him and was covered before it crossed the goal line. Saiko made three saves on the Spuds' power play late in the period, including stopping Kyler Kleven's deflection in front of the net.

Both teams has multiple scoring chances in the final two minutes. Moorhead's Lukas Feir was looking at a good portion of the net being open, but his shot was blocked by defenseman Eric Pohlkamp. At the other end, Kruse used his speed to break in alone on Hodges, but his shot was deflected away with 1:20 left in the session. Brainerd had other scoring chances 30 seconds later on a 2-on-1 break when Riley Andres passed in front to Kruse, who sticklanded through the crease and took a shot that was deflected away by Hodges.


The Spuds had a final chance just before the buzzer to end the period when Saiko made another save on Kleven from close range.

Moorhead's first goal came on a turnover when Westra intercepted the puck in the Warriors' zone, and fired a low shot past Saiko to make it 1-0 at 9:22. The Spuds increased the lead just 25 seconds later when Horan skated behind the Brainerd goal and deposited his wraparound shot into the net. Horan scored again when he skated in and beat Saiko at 11:57.

"Thomas is the energy guy for us," Ammerman said of Horan. "He gave us a burst of energy during those two minutes. I'm happy for him since he broke his jaw on a hit in the high slot on his first shift in last year's section final (loss to St. Michael-Albertville)."

The Warriors called a timeout after the third goal. The strategy worked as Brainerd dominated play over the final five minutes and were rewarded with a goal by Kruse, who skated in and slipped the puck past Hodges to make it 3-1 at 15:01.

Both teams had ideal scoring changes in the final period. Brainerd cut the deficit to 3-2 at 6:06 of the third session when he fired a shot up the middle that found the net.

"That was a great play by Mason," said Brainerd coach Dave Aus. "We played well in the final minutes of the (second period). We talked (at intermission) about getting one more goal before the five-minute mark of the third period to really put pressure on (Moorhead). And we did that on Brady's great shot."

Saiko, who finished with 30 saves, kept the game close in the closing minutes as he stopped the puck when Cullen Gess and Horan crashed the net. Saiko also made a big save on Gess with 1:13 left.

The Warriors pulled Saiko with 1:00 left, and kept the puck in the Moorhead end for much of the final minute, but didn't get a quality chance to tie the game.


The game featured dozens of great scoring chances and just one penalty, against the Warriors in the first period.

"We played our top two lines a lot, and we were tired in the end," Aus said. "We still didn't quit."


Moorhead 0 3 0 - 3

Brainerd 0 1 1 - 2


First period: No scoring

Second period: M-Nolan Westra 9:22; M-Thomas Horan (Carter Johnson) 9:47; M-Horan (Cullen Gess) 11:57; Brd-Mason Kruse (Wyatt Andres, Riley Andres) 15:01


Third period: Brd-Brady Anderson (Mike Laber) 6:06

Shots on goal: Brd 25, M 33

Goalies: Brd-Luke Saiko (30 saves); M-Hudson Hodges (23 saves)

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