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Published January 19 2011

Spuds find a spark in first boys hockey home game since suspensions

Box scores have suggested things are all right with the Moorhead boys hockey team.

A 6-0 thumping over Buffalo – powered by a Logan Ness hat trick – on Tuesday affirmed things are all right just two weeks after the school district announced it was investigating members of the team for hazing.

“It has been, ‘Just take care of business, take care of ourselves and not worry about what people are saying,’ ” said Moorhead coach Dave Morinville. “We can control what we can control. That’s what we’ve been telling our kids.”

Not a bad motto when looking at the position Moorhead (9-4-1) has been put into this season.

First, it was a lack of scoring. When that appeared to be over, it was the 6-0 loss to Duluth East on Dec. 22 for the worst home loss in Morinville’s 14-year career.

Seven days later, the same team beat previously undefeated No. 1 Wayzata, only to have players suspended for five games and Morinville for one game a little more than a week later.

Control, it seems, didn’t look like it was in Moorhead’s hands, but that’s not how they’re seeing it. They have reason to feel that way now because they’ve gone 3-1 since the suspensions. Those wins include another victory over Wayzata, along with a section win against St. Cloud Tech.

Beating Buffalo puts Moorhead at 3-1-1 in Class 2A, Section 8, which could help them make a run at another section crown.

Ok, so the suspensions have forced Morinville to change the lineup. That’s fine, because Morinville and his assistants have a depth chart that includes junior varsity players in the event they need to call up players to fill in the holes in the lineup.

Five players from the junior varsity played against Buffalo, and one of them – defenseman Eric Barker – had two assists.

“Hey, I like it and I like that we have the younger guys,” said Ness, who doubled his season goal total from three to six in the game. “They don’t want to mess up at all and they’re doing what they can to make sure we win. I like that they have that attitude.”

Attitude is another thing the Spuds have been able to control. Ness perhaps serves as a prism to the thought of things can change.

He scored the season’s first goal in a 3-0 win over Fargo South but went through a dry spell. Things began to change because the suspensions forced everyone to step up and because Ness to hear some advice.

“Everyone kept telling me ‘hit the net, hit the net,’” he said. “Coaches, fans, parents, grandma and grandpa all kept telling me to do it.”

Obviously, the hat trick was proof he was listening.

But there’s the defense. Having a goaltender like Michael Bitzer, who is one of the best in the state, deliver solid performances game after game is a luxury, but it can be a strain.

Morinville said junior defenseman Terry Leabo has probably accepted the challenge of helping Bitzer better than any defenseman.

“I just got to pick it up on the defensive side, play hard and keep a positive attitude,” said Leabo, who logged more than 20 minutes of ice time against Wayzata last week. “Things have been good. It has been difficult on the defensive side, but we’re keeping it up and we’re playing good.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1. M, Ness (Barker), 12:03. 2. M, Ness (Barker, Johnson), 13:34. 3. Christian (Ness, Johnson), 13:47.

SECOND PERIOD: 4. M, Johnson (Christian), 3:48. 5. M, Christian (J. Uglem, Ness), power play, 6:49. 6. M, Ness (J. Uglem), power play, 16:04.


SAVES: M, Bitzer 6-4-0 10 saves, Cochran 0-0-8 8 saves B, Schmidt 10-0-0 10 saves; Zumbusch 1-17-6 `23 saves

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