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Published January 26 2011

Revved up for rival: Ness scores hat trick as Moorhead tops Roseau in boys hockey

There may not be a Game 3 after all.

Logan Ness’ hat trick helped the Moorhead boys hockey team rout rival Roseau for a 6-1 win on Tuesday at the Moorhead Sports Center, yet the victory does more than just hurt or inflate egos.

Since 1997, these two teams have played in the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 finals creating a third game, which has always been considered the real prize in the rivalry. But Roseau’s (7-8) loss, in a way, contributes to the reality of another team other than it or Moorhead (12-4-1) walking away with the section title.

“It feels good after what happened in Roseau earlier in the year,” said Spuds goalie Michael Bitzer, who was referencing the team’s 2-1 loss to the Rams earlier this season. “We just have the confidence that we can play with anyone.”

That could come in handy if this Section 8 pattern holds true throughout the playoffs. Roseau entered the game in seventh out of the nine-team section, and a loss drops its section mark to 1-2, which could get better or worse with consecutive section games against St. Cloud Tech on Friday and Buffalo on Saturday.

Moorhead sits at 4-1-1, which is good enough for second place behind Bemidji, which tops the section at 5-0-1.

If Moorhead, which has won six straight, were to play Bemidji for the section crown, it’d be the first time since 1997, a section final would be a matchup other than Moorhead-Roseau.

While questions surround Roseau’s section final chances, Moorhead unquestionably put the game out of reach early, scoring three first-period goals.

Defenseman Terry Leabo opened the game with a slap shot from the blue line before Ness and Eric Brenk capped the period.

“They started off strong and got three goals right off the bat,” said Roseau coach Andy Lundbohm. “Halfway through the second, we played with some energy but in the third period, the mountain was too tall to climb.”

Facing Bitzer made the so-called mountain hard to climb, but that’s not really a surprise anymore. Bitzer entered the game with a .944 save percentage, which is second in the state. Teams had it down early in the season: Beat Bitzer, Beat Moorhead.

Not anymore. He made 31 saves, but none of them forced him to do anything spectacular. The one goal he gave up came off a defenseman’s skate.

“It’s nice with the way we’ve been scoring,” Bitzer said. “It’s made things easier for me and defense back there.”

Think he’s the only one happy about Moorhead’s recent offensive outburst? Hardly. Coach Dave Morinville is a happy man, and so was Ness.

Ness, who scored again in the second and third periods, said the offense has been clicking because there’s familiarity among linemates.

His hat trick is the latest example of Moorhead’s balanced attack, which relies on no single player.

As for the third goal, it was memorable one. Defenseman Noah Julin fired a slap shot and Ness recovered the rebound for a 6-1 lead with 6:40 left.

Moorhead’s student section, “The Black Hole,” threw hats onto the ice that were quickly scooped up and later returned to them by the hockey team.

“You know, the thing about playing in this game is to have fun,” Ness said. “Winning is important too, but if you have fun, I think that leads to winning.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1. M, Leabo (N. Uglem), 7:46. 2. M, Ness (Johnson), 12:54. 3. M, Brenk (Christian), 16:06.

SECOND PERIOD: 4. M, Ness (Brenk, Christian), 7:54. 5. R, Johnson (Leverington), 10:42.

THIRD PERIOD: 6. M, Christian (J. Uglem, Leabo), power play, 8:19. 7 M, Ness (Julin), 10:20.

SAVES: R, Strand 5-6-6 17 saves, Erickson 0-0-5 5 saves. M, Bitzer 8-11-12 31 saves

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