MOORHEAD — Moorhead senior left winger Thomas Horan played two shifts in last season's Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 boys hockey championship. He broke his jaw and woke up in the hospital to his dad telling him the Spuds lost by one.
On Thursday, Horan had a goal and two assists in a 5-2 win over St. Michael-Albertville at Moorhead Sports Center.
"I thought, from the drop of the puck, we were ready to go," Horan said. "It all started in warmpups."
Moorhead junior center Carter Johnson called the loss in last season's section championship game one of the biggest disappointments of his life.
"Seeing in the locker room, all the seniors they were so sad," Johnson said. "It sucked for me, but I felt so bad for them, playing their last game. Wanting to play in that state tournament, it was a big disappointment for us."
Johnson entered Thursday with three goals in 16 games and none in his last eight. He scored two goals and added an assist Thursday to help lead the Spuds (10-6-1).
"We were just working hard all night," Johnson said. "My line with Tommy (Horan) and Cullen (Gess), we were just doing good all night. It was great for us because we've been in a little slump lately, but to finally get going a little felt good."
Moorhead dominated the opening minutes of the game, but needed some help from St. Michael-Albertville to open the scoring. Johnson won the faceoff in the right circle of the STMA zone, drove to the net and hit the puck off the skate of an STMA defender and into the back of the net with 7 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the first.
Johnson struck again, punching home a rebound off a Horan shot just over four minutes into the second. Cullen Gess found a loose puck in the slot and fired it into the back of the net with 3:54 remaining in the second to put Moorhead up 3-0.
"I thought this was one of our better performances," Johnson said. "I thought it was a complete game. Boys were blocking shots, getting pucks to the net and working hard pretty much the whole game."
The Knights went more than 13 minutes between shots in the second period, but were able to get on the board late. Conner Couet found Adam Flammang behind everyone for a breakaway and Flammang found a power-play goal with 46.4 seconds left to cut the Moorhead lead to 3-1.
STMA (9-4-3) took that momentum into the third. The Knights cut the lead to one less than five minutes into the third when Nate Swenson redirected Conner Couet's shot one second after Moorhead killed a power play.
"I didn't have any doubt in our team," Horan said. "You just have to keep grinding and things happen."
The Spuds got the two-goal cushion back three minutes later when Nick Searls' shot was deflected off an STMA defender and on the stick of Horan with nothing but a wide-open net in front of him.
Nolan Westra pushed his goal streak to three games to seal it for Moorhead with 2:22 to go.
"For a majority of the game were were good," Moorhead coach Jon Ammerman said. "It's good for our kids to be rewarded because, for the year, there's been some challenges for our group, and they were rewarded for their effort tonight."
FIRST PERIOD: 1, M, Johnson, 9:53.
SECOND PERIOD: 2, M, Johnson (Horan), 4:17. 3, M, Gess (Johnson, Horan), 13:06. 4, STMA Flammang (Couet, Swenson), 16:14, pp.
THIRD PERIOD: 5, STMA, Swenson (Couet, Flammang), 4:48. 6, M, Horan (Searls, Westra), 7:42. 7, M, Westra (Kleven, Gramer), 14:38.
SAVES: STMA, Marhula 7-11-5—23. M, Miller 6-7-9—22.