Olivia Dronen nets lone goal as Spuds ‘dig deep’ for shutout win over Brainerd-Little Falls
The 1-0 victory gave Moorhead its most section wins (6) since the 2011-12 season.
MOORHEAD — It’s been a while since a Moorhead girls hockey team has been in the running to earn the top seed for the Section 8AA tournament. The Spuds gave themselves that chance Tuesday night with a win over Brainerd-Little Falls.
The 1-0 victory gave Moorhead its most section wins (six) since the 2011-12 season.
“We’ve worked all season to succeed in our section, and I think this win was definitely earned,” Moorhead freshman goalie Taylor Kressin said. “It was a big group effort. It took everybody pulling on the same rope and everybody working their hardest.”
Kressin posted a 24-save shutout as the Spuds (14-8-0) and Warriors (12-10-0) clashed at Moorhead Sports Center in a game that had playoff seeding implications. Heading into Tuesday’s contest, Moorhead had the top spot in Section 8AA with a 25 QRF (computer rankings). The Warriors were second in section standings with a QRF of 28.
BLF defeated Moorhead 1-0 in an earlier season meeting. The Warriors looked to snap a three-game losing streak Tuesday.
“I think they've learned a lot through the course of the year,” Moorhead head coach Ryan Kraft said of his team. “I think they're finally believing that they belong, and they’re ready for a playoff run.”
That belief has taken three years.
“When I first got here, there was no belief that they were going to win,” said Kraft, in his third year at the helm.
The Spuds showed they can compete with any team on their schedule Tuesday. Junior defenseman Olivia Dronen netted the game’s only goal.
It was clear from the opening moments that nothing would come easy for either team. Both sides came out strong and set the tone for the fast-paced affair.
“It was a heck of a battle,” Dronen said. “It feels really good to beat Brainerd.”
Moorhead and BLF each had chances in the evenly matched first period, but neither side was able to capitalize. Kressin had a few big saves in the first frame, turning away a couple blasts from the point and a dangerous rebound attempt.
“We were playing good, but I still felt that there was a whole nother level we could get to,” Kraft said on what he told his team between periods. “I basically just emphasized how important it was to come out strong in the first five minutes. It kind of carried right through the whole period. The last three-four minutes of the second period they took it to us a little bit, but we controlled the play for the majority of the period.”
After a scoreless first frame, Dronen lit the lamp for Moorhead 54 seconds into the second period. She banged home the second rebound in a series of shots and the puck trickled across the goal line for the first and only score of the game.
“The puck came out and my first instinct was to just slam it in,” Dronen said.
The Spuds dominated the first half of the second period and put the Warriors on their heels. BLF got its first shot on net of the period six minutes in.
There were few whistles in the back-and-forth second frame.
“We worked as hard as we possibly could,” Kressin said. “We went out every shift busting our butts, working 100% and giving our all. I don’t think anything was left out on the ice.”
The final 17 minutes would be a battle. Moorhead’s offensive pressure forced BLF to ice the puck early. The Spuds were stout in the neutral zone and took away passing lanes.
Both teams killed penalties in the third period. Moorhead managed several shots on a late power play, but none got past Warriors goalie Breya Sawyer, who turned away 23 shots Tuesday.
“We just talked about it really comes down to who wants it more,” Dronen said. “We had to dig really deep.”
The Warriors pulled their goalie with a minute and a half remaining, but were unable to get much of anything going offensively.
“The girls fought hard all the way through till the end,” Kraft said. “We got the one lucky bounce that mattered in the end. We feel pretty good about ourselves right now.”
Moorhead hosts section foe Bemidji (3-14-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday.