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Moorhead boys hockey team comes up short at state tournament

ST. PAUL - The plan was to make a mark. Old footage of previous teams was shown on the bus ride down to show this year's team that Moorhead's boys hockey team has made its mark in front of the state. This time, however, it was Eagan that made the...

Eagan's Eli May
Eagan's Eli May checks Moorhead's Brendan Johnson near the Spuds bench during the Minnesota Class 2A state boys hockey tournament quarterfinals Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. David Samson / The Forum

ST. PAUL - The plan was to make a mark.

Old footage of previous teams was shown on the bus ride down to show this year's team that Moorhead's boys hockey team has made its mark in front of the state. This time, however, it was Eagan that made the mark.

Eagan made it early, scoring on its first shot before scoring three in the third for a 4-0 win over Moorhead on Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the Minnesota Class 2A state boys hockey tournament at the Xcel Energy Center.

"I think we were happy to be here and that's not enough," said Moorhead coach Dave Morinville. "Getting here is great, but you have to do more than just be happy to be here."

Moorhead (18-8-2) will remain at the state tournament, where it will can capture a consolation championship starting today against Lakeville North at noon at Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota.

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Certainly that was not the plan Morinville had in mind for his team.

Having not faced Eagan (21-6-2) all season, Moorhead was told that this was a physical team that liked to score.

The scouting reports weren't off. Eagan's Nick Kuchera scored on the Wildcats' first shot for a 1-0 lead just 3 minutes, 35 seconds into the game.

"I just had to try and put it behind me," said Bitzer, who made 30 saves in the loss. "You just try to get past it and do what you can to give the team a chance to win."

He did just that. Eagan used its size and speed to win battles in the corners in its end that, at times, led to odd-man rushes heading toward Bitzer, who managed to stop quite a few rushes.

Moorhead's offense, however, had a hard time getting anything going. The Spuds' play-it-off-the-boards offense was in check with Eagan always having someone in a forward's face to knock them off the puck.

"Sometimes you just try to get things going," Morinville said. "It can be like you're in the mud and it's hard to get it all going."

Moorhead made changes in the second. The offense was a bit crisper and shots were coming from everywhere, but Eagan's Tommy Bodeker kicked or covered every shot. He finished with a 27-save shutout.

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Moorhead's efforts took a major blow in the third when Will Merchant fought off a few Moorhead defenders, spun and fired a shot on net for a 2-0 lead.

Eagan scored two more goals, both empty-netters, to end it.

"Losing the first game isn't good," Morinville said. "You can't change what happened in the past. They're a good hockey team. Just wished we could have played a little bit better."

FIRST PERIOD: 1. E, N. Kuchera (Carroll, Lowell), 3:35.

SECOND PERIOD: No scoring.

THIRD PERIOD: 2. E, Merchant (unassisted), 13:42. 3. E, Mason (unassisted), en, 14:15 4. E, Loew (unassisted), 16:58.

SAVES: M, Bitzer 4-13-13 30 saves. E, Bodeker 8-9-10 27 saves.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

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Clark's Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com

Eagan's Eli May
Dejected Moorhead players gather around Spuds goalie Michael Bitzer after losing to Eagan 4-0 on Thursday. David Samson / The Forum

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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