MOORHEAD — Moorhead head boys hockey coach Jon Ammerman said this was a good place to start.
The young Spuds team didn’t open the season with a win, but the coach said he saw some things to build on as they fell to ninth-ranked Grand Rapids 3-0 on Saturday at Moorhead Sports Center.
“That team right out of the gates is one of the top teams in the state,” Ammerman said. “They return a bunch. What a great measuring stick for our guys here. Now going into next week we have two section games. I thought for the majority of the game we competed and blocked shots well.”
The majority of the Spuds roster saw its first varsity action against Grand Rapids after losing a 13-player senior class from last season. Only two players on the roster — Max Dronen and Grant Frisch — have a full varsity season under their belts, while a handful of others saw limited time last season.
The Thunderhawks capitalized on a slow change by the Spuds to open the scoring in the second period and scored twice about a minute apart early in the third.
“It would be one thing if we didn’t have the skill and the poise to work with,” Ammerman said. “A lot of the mistakes are correctable, teachable mistakes that we can go through on video. It’s going to be up to me and the kids and the coaching staff to make those adjustments.”
Frisch, a senior captain, said he was proud of the way his young teammates responded in their first varsity action.
“I thought the young guys did really well,” he said. “I was very happy with how they played. Everybody was a little bit nervous for the first game, but everybody played their role and I think if they keep it up, we’ll be good.”
Hayden DeMars broke through for the Thunderhawks with a breakaway backhander with 5 minutes, 48 seconds to go in the second. He got a pass from Easton Young at the blue line with nobody in front of him and finished with a backhander deep in the slot with a defender chasing.
“We made a bad change and they have great transition and they score on their opportunity,” Ammerman said. “That’s a teachable thing that we can work through.”
Kerr scored Grand Rapids' second goal 1:12 into the period and Bouse followed it up a little over a minute later.
On the first goal, Sam Sterle fired from the point the puck ricocheted behind the net. DeMars picked up at the goal line and centered it to Kerr in the slot.
A little more than a minute later Bonner took a shot from the left point, Jack Peart crashed in and backhanded the rebound toward the goal and Brouse deflected it in. Peart started his hockey season as a defenseman for the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League. He tallied 11 assists in 16 appearances before leaving the Force to join his high school squad.
“There was a bit of a lull at the beginning of the third where I thought we started to feel sorry for ourselves,” Ammerman said. “I thought (goalie) Will Kunka played well, I thought our young defensemen played well, I thought our forwards got better as the game went on.”
The Spuds spent 3:20 on the penalty kill midway through the second period, including 35 seconds of a two-man disadvantage. The Thunderhawks put shot after shot on goal, but the Spuds survived without surrendering a score.
“That was outstanding by everybody out there,” Frisch said. “I was out there and all of the other guys out there played great. We were 5-on-3 at one point and to kill that was huge. You’ve got to do whatever you can to block shots and not let the puck go in.”