Published March 07 2012
Spuds have chance at redemption at state tournamentMOORHEAD – The joke is this year’s drama has been Michael Bitzer’s fault.
Bitzer, the Moorhead boys hockey team goaltender, needed a new glove this season.
He eventually got one halfway through the season. It created what his teammates comically referred to as the team’s biggest problem all year.
“He only had one practice under it before we played Duluth East,” joked forward Logan Ness. “He slept with it on the bus ride there.”
Ness’ statement prompted laughter – something that didn’t occur much in Moorhead’s locker room last season.
Moorhead (21-6) has returned to the Minnesota Class 2A state hockey tournament in St. Paul where it will face Eagan in a 1 p.m. quarterfinal game today.
Moorhead faced Eagan last season in the state tournament. But the Spuds enter this game under much different circumstances compared to last season.
“You never knew what was next,” said two-year captain Bryant Christian said about last season. “You almost dreaded coming into the locker room. Now everyone wants to be in the locker room. It’s like a safe haven for us.”
Moorhead last season was investigated after a complaint was filed alleging hazing in the team’s locker room. The investigation led to suspensions for multiple players and head coach Dave Morinville.
Weeks later, defenseman Terry Leabo was the subject of The Forum’s investigative report on allegations regarding the guardianship arrangement between his parents, who live in North Dakota, and sister Victoria, who lives in Minnesota.
Moorhead’s season then ended with the team going winless at the state tournament for the first time under Morinville.
“I think we have to redeem ourselves,” Morinville said. “We went to the state tournament, but we didn’t play in the state tournament.”
Morinville said he had good seniors on last year’s team, but there were just personalities which didn’t mesh.
Moorhead’s senior-heavy team has openly accepted underclassmen, such as Thomas Carey and Aaron Herdt.
It’s a team which after every victory plays music so loud, it shakes the concrete walls at the Moorhead Sports Center.
“My favorite moment was when we beat Roseau in the playoffs,” Bitzer said. “The music was loud and everyone was having fun. That’s what a locker room should be like.”
Leabo said one of the reasons there’s unity is because everyone’s working towards reaching the state title game. Morinville said he’s noticed.
“You can put a senior and a sophomore together,” he said. “And they’d go shoot the breeze and get along.”
What they’d talk about is anybody’s guess. Maybe Bitzer’s glove was the topic of conversation – jokingly blaming it for the only drama this season.
“Hey,” Bitzer said as he opened and closed his glove. “You can’t blame (his glove). It’s not his fault.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.
Clark’s Force blog can be found