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Minnesota Class 2A State Boys hockey tournament: Spuds escape in OT

ST. PAUL -- A rebound goal. In overtime. Moorhead was for rewarded for its resilience Thursday, in a fitting beginning to its ninth try, try, try to capture a boys state hockey title.

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ST. PAUL -- A rebound goal. In overtime. Moorhead was for rewarded for its resilience Thursday, in a fitting beginning to its ninth try, try, try to capture a boys state hockey title.

Cory Loos's low backhand shot on the rebound of Jon Ammerman's slapshot 1 minute, 43 seconds into the extra session rallied the No. 2-ranked Spuds for a 4-3 victory against No. 6 Elk River in the Minnesota Class 2A tournament at Xcel Energy Center.

Despite outshooting the Elks 29-10, Moorhead needed a goal by Brian Lee in the final seven minutes of regulation and the tally by Loos to advance to the semifinals. The Spuds (25-2) will meet No. 7 Duluth East (20-8-1) at 9 tonight.

"You just try and get out in front to get at the puck," said Loos, a junior forward who transferred from Fargo North last fall. "You know it's going to come, you just don't know where."

Loos was referring to his game-winning goal, but his words summed up the Spuds' evening. They dominated -- only to allow three goals on seven shots and fall behind for the first time in nearly a month.

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Two goals in less than four minutes, the second on a top-shelf wrist shot by Joe Long at the 7:31 mark, gave Elk River (19-9-1) at 3-2 lead.

"They have more talent than we do," Elks coach Tony Sarlsand said, "but we did all the little things."

With one exception: finishing the job. Seconds after Moorhead appeared to tie the game on a high shot by Matt Becker -- the light behind the goal was turned on, although play was never stopped, nor an explanation offered -- junior Brian Lee tied the score at 3-3 with a wrister from the point.

Forcing overtime was a victory in itself, even for the four-time defending section champion Spuds, who have publicly stated their disaffection for moral wins.

"We felt good going into overtime," said Becker, who netted Moorhead's first two goals, his 23rd and 24th of the season. "We had momentum so we came out flying. I think it just made us stronger."

After failing on two rushes in the first 60 seconds of the extra session, Ammerman collected the puck that swung from the left boards, wound up and unleashed a slapper. It bounced off the pads of Elk River goalie Sam Warhol, enabling Loos to slide in the game-winner.

"We worked so hard all game and we had so many chances," said Spuds junior forward Cory Johnson, who assisted on both Becker goals. "We deserved to win. We couldn't live with ourselves if we lost."

The surface, at times chippy and wet, redirected several prime Moorhead passes, and the television timeouts, which negated the Spuds' depth advantage, fed the frustration, coach Dave Morinville said.

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But the Elks' physical play -- each collision was accompanied by an unloving hug or a jersey tug -- was the real culprit in corralling Moorhead.

Sarsland likened his players to "junk-yard dogs." And he said that the Spuds are "good, not great." That remains to be seen. Resilient Moorhead has another chance.

"We've got a bunch of kids that believe," Morinville said of his team's second overtime win in as many tries, "and a bunch of kids that work hard."

Loos expressed that belief more exactly: "We deserved to win," he said. "It was our chance. This is our year."

FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.

SECOND PERIOD: 1, Moorhead, Becker (Johnson) 2:11 (pp). 1, Elk River, Graham (Peterson, Rogers) 7:57 (ev).

THIRD PERIOD: 2, Moorhead, Becker (Johnson) 3:32 (ev). 2, Elk River, Peterson (Graham) 3:53 (ev). 3, Elk River, Long (Graham) 7:31 (pp). 3, Moorhead, Lee (Nolan) 10:26 (pp).

OVERTIME: 4, Moorhead, Loos (Ammerman) 1:43 (ev).

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SAVES: Moorhead, Hittle 1-3-2-1--7. Elk River, Warhol 8-6-10-1--25.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Terry Vandrovec at (701) 241-5548

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