BEMIDJI, Minn. — The Moorhead boys hockey team is going to its 17th Minnesota state hockey tournament.
The Spuds defeated Roseau 3-2 in the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 championship on Wednesday at the Sanford Center. Moorhead clinched a trip to the state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for the second straight year.
“It feels unbelievable, we dream of this growing up as kids,” Moorhead senior defenseman Luke Gramer said. “This senior class has been together the whole way up and it is a dream come true to go back to the X.”
Things got a little tense for Moorhead late, as the one-goal game came right down to the wire with Roseau flinging shot after shot on the Spuds net in the final minute. But goalie Hudson Hodges weathered the barrage, and when the clock hit 0, the Spuds were on their way to the tournament.
“It’s been a grind,” Hodges said. “But we’re here and made it to this point, and we’re going to the X and it’s awesome.”
The Spuds’ 13 seniors get to take a trip to the Xcel Energy Center next week to try to win Moorhead’s first state title in its 17th try.
“I love all these boys and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” senior winger Caden Triggs said. “We’ve been playing together since we were little rookies. This is what all the kids dream up in Moorhead, to make it to the state tournament, and hopefully we can make it pretty far this year.”
After Triggs sent the Spuds into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, Roseau came back in the second to tie it up at 1-1 on a Max Strand goal at the 11 minutes, 52 seconds mark in the second period.
But the tie didn’t stand for long.
Less than three minutes later, Kai Holm and Triggs scored two goals in 13 seconds and carried a wave of momentum into the second intermission.
Holm found himself on the end of a tic-tac-toe pass and buried a shot from the high slot. And before the Rams could catch a breath, the Spuds jumped right back on them as Triggs braced the Spuds lead with an assist from Cullen Gess.
“You’ve got to stay on an even plane, you can’t get too high, can’t get too low,” Triggs said. “Our coaches told us that and we tried to keep it even.”
The Rams weren’t ready to roll over and die for the Spuds in the third period. Kellen Murphy cut their deficit to 3-2 with 13:26 to go. Gavin Gunderson sent him a pass in the high slot and he flicked a wrister over Hodges’ shoulder to make it a one-goal game.
“It put a little pressure on, but I feel like I handled it well,” Hodges said. “It feels good to have the guys know that they can rely on me and I know I can rely on them.”
Hodges stopped 17 shots, including a number of open chances in the second, before Roseau finally got one by him. The Minnesota goalie of the year finalist stood his ground and says he stayed confident even after he gave up two goals.
“I think (Hodges) has gotten better throughout the tournament,” Spuds head coach Jon Ammerman said. “Through the first couple of games there was a lot of expectation for him and for the team in general. But he got through it.”
The Spuds' top line has stepped up all season, with Triggs totaling 55 points, Cullen Gess tallying 50, and Carter Johnson recording 48. The secondary scoring on the second line also came up big.
“That top line is incredible,” Ammerman said. “Every game the question is ‘How do they keep doing it?’ and they do. It’s just a perfect combination.”
FIRST PERIOD: 1, M, Triggs (Johnson, Gess) 12:00.
SECOND PERIOD: 1, R, Strand (Murphy) 11:52. 2, M, Holm (Overbo, Lindberg) 14:19. 3, M, Triggs (Gess) 14:32.
THIRD PERIOD: Murphy (Gunderson, Strand) 3:34.