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Moorhead Spuds advance to Section 8AA boys hockey semifinals with win over Brainerd

Mason Kraft netted two goals while Aaron Reierson recorded a four-point night as the Spuds advanced to Saturday's section semifinals versus Sartell-St. Stephen.

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Moorhead's Abe Carlson checks Brainerd's Dylan Wikoff during the Section 8AA boys hockey quarterfinals at the Moorhead Sports Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum

MOORHEAD โ€” The Moorhead girls hockey team departed for St. Paul on Tuesday bound for the state tournament. The Spud boys are hoping to do the same very soon.

Their quest got off to a good start on Tuesday night as top-seeded Moorhead rolled to a 6-2 victory over ninth-seeded Brainerd in a Section 8AA quarterfinal game at the Moorhead Sports Center.

Sophomore forward Mason Kraft led the Spuds (17-9-0) with two goals as Moorhead advanced to Saturday's section semifinals against fourth-seeded Sartell-St. Stephen (17-6-3) at 6 p.m.

"It feels good, but we're not satisfied," Kraft said after recording a three-point night. "Our goal is to get to the state tournament, but not just get to the state tournament, actually do something there."

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Moorhead's Mason Kraft (19) cuts around Brainerd goalie Ryan Gerlich to score during the Section 8AA boys hockey quarterfinals at the Moorhead Sports Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum

Kraft has had no trouble sharing the puck, leading the Spuds with 24 assists entering Tuesday's contest. He added another against the Warriors on senior forward Aaron Reierson's 28th goal of the year in the second period.

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Finding the back of the net himself, however, has been a challenge. Prior to his two goals on Tuesday, Kraft had just three all season.

"It feels good to break that little goalless streak that I had," Kraft said. "But it was a nice win for the guys, too."

Moorhead head coach Jon Ammerman said it was pleasing to see one of his offensive threats get rewarded with a pair of goals.

"It honestly hasn't been without chances," Ammerman said. "He's generated chances all year long. It's just been one of those things where he's hit a pipe or a goalie's made a very nice save.

"He's generated offense. That's one thing he's very good at and (today) he converted and was able to score a couple. He probably had a couple of more chances, too, and hopefully he continues to do that."

Spuds' senior defenseman Colby Krier, senior forward Abe Carlson, sophomore defenseman Aiden Dufault and Reierson also found the back of the net.

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Moorhead's Colby Krier, center, celebrates his first period goal against Brainerd with teammates Caleb Alderson and Garrett Lindberg during the Section 8AA boys hockey quarterfinals at the Moorhead Sports Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum

The main storyline perhaps was Moorhead's ability to find the back of the net early in the period. Krier kicked things off with a power play tally just 59 seconds into the game. After the Spuds took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission, they scored just 41 seconds into the middle frame on Dufault's third of the year. Up 5-1 entering the third period, only 1 minute and 32 seconds elapsed before Kraft added his second of the night.

"Obviously it changes the tempo or momentum of the game," Ammerman said of the early strikes. "I thought our team played well at times. Obviously it got a little loose and Brainerd had something to do with that at different points throughout the game.

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"To start the game the way it did โ€” it was kind of a goofy bounce to go up 1-0 โ€” it probably calmed our bench down a little bit. I thought our second period overall was pretty good and in the third, with the game the way it was, I thought we did a good job of managing it."

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Moorhead's Colby Krier pressures Brainerd goalie Ryan Gerlich during the Section 8AA boys hockey quarterfinals at the Moorhead Sports Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum

It was a tripping call assessed to Brainerd sophomore forward Kade Stengrim that put Moorhead on the power play just 50 seconds into the first period. It took Krier and his Spuds teammates a matter of nine seconds to make it 1-0.

Stengrim made up for it not long after, however, beating Spuds junior goaltender Kai Weigel at the 6:40 mark for his 18th of the season to tie the game at one.

It was the Warriors' first goal against Moorhead this season after Brainerd was goose-egged by the Spuds in the regular season.

Ammerman's message to the team after giving up the equalizer was to keep playing hard.

"Just stick with it," Ammerman said. "At that point in the game, it's still pretty early. I liked the way we were playing for the most part. We got a little loose there for a little bit, but I really liked the way we responded after that."

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Moorhead's Joe Kortan digs for a face off against Brainerd's Kalvin Stengrim during the Section 8AA boys hockey quarterfinals at the Moorhead Sports Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum

Kraft's first of the game came at 9:35 of the first period on a pass across the slot from senior forward Caleb Alderson. Kraft proceeded to make a nice move to beat Brainerd junior goaltender Ryan Gerlich to put the Spuds back on top 2-1.

Carlson added his fourth of the season at 10:39 of the first frame.

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It was Dufault and Reierson finding the net in the second for the Spuds before Kraft added one final tally in the third.

Brainerd's second goal came with just under 2-1/2 minutes to play when junior Brady Johnson got one behind Spuds sophomore goaltender Charlie Stenehjem to make it 6-2.

Final shots were 49-28 in favor of Moorhead. Weigel stopped 19 shots before being relieved by Stenehjem with 5:35 remaining. Stenehjem made seven saves to close it out. Gerlich finished with 43 saves.

Reierson added three assists to finish with four points on the night. Alderson tallied two assists while sophomore defenseman Garrett Lindberg, sophomore forward Carver Hasbargen and senior defensemen Jack Arnold and Colin Baumgartner each added an assist.

Warriors junior forward Kalvin Stengrim and junior defenseman Sean Englestad each recorded assists for the Warriors.

Moorhead went 1-for-3 on the power play while Brainerd was 0-for-2.

The Warriors end their season 11-13-3.

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Moorhead goalie Kai Weigel faces a shot from Brainerd's Brady Johnson during the Section 8AA boys hockey quarterfinals at the Moorhead Sports Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum

Sartell-St. Stephen defeated fifth-seeded St. Michael-Albertville in the other half of the Section 8AA bracket on Tuesday night. The Spuds topped the Sabres 3-0 on Feb. 11.

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"It's very recent the last time we played Sartell," Ammerman said. "They have a very nice goaltender and a team that works incredibly hard in front of him. We hope to take him out and play strong.

"I think that the last couple of weeks, we've been playing better. And when we play simple and hard, we have a chance. Sartell is going to come in with a little bit of momentum themselves with their recent results. We'll have to be at our very best."

FIRST PERIOD: 1, MH, Krier (Alderson, Reierson), 0:59. 2, BN, Kade Stengrim (Kalvin Stengrim), 6:40. 3, MH, Kraft (Alderson, Reierson), 9:35. 4, MH, Carlson (Lindberg, Hasbargen), 10:39.

SECOND PERIOD: 5, MH, Dufault (Baumgartner), 0:41. 6, MH, Reierson (Arnold, Kraft), 9:35.

THIRD PERIOD: 7, MH, Kraft (Reierson), 1:32. 8, BN, Johnson (Engelstad), 14:31.

SAVES: BN, Gerlich 16-15-12โ€”43. MH, Weigel 10-7-2โ€”19, Stenehjem, 0-0-7โ€”7.

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Moorhead players are greeted by young fans as they take the ice against Brainerd during the Section 8AA boys hockey quarterfinals at the Moorhead Sports Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum
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Moorhead's Brooks Cullen skates behind the Brainerd net during the Section 8AA boys hockey quarterfinals at the Moorhead Sports Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum
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Moorhead's Aaron Reierson celebrates his second period goal against Brainerd during the Section 8AA boys hockey quarterfinals at the Moorhead Sports Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum

Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.
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