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Chris Murphy, Published March 05 2013

Spuds hockey team has another chance at redemption

Moorhead - The Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 championship served as redemption time for the Moorhead Spuds boys hockey team. The Spuds knocked off a Brainerd team that will always remind them of the worst point in the season.

Now, they have a chance to knock off another reminder in No. 2-seeded Duluth East at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Class 2A quarterfinals at the Xcel Energy Center.

“We definitely want another shot at them,” said Moorhead forward Tony Uglem, who leads the Spuds with 44 points. “Now we got it on the big stage too.”

Until Moorhead’s 2-0 win over Brainerd to claim the Spuds’ third consecutive section championship and 14th bid to the state tournament since 1992, the Warriors were always a reminder of the biggest drop that has been the rollercoaster ride that is the Spuds’ season.

It was a losing streak that just got worse. After dropping three straight in mid-January, Moorhead (14-11-2) lost to Brainerd for the first time since the 1999-2000 season behind six power-play goals for the Warriors.

The Spuds piled up 33 penalty minutes in the 8-5 loss.

The Spuds lost their next game 6-4, making the skid a season-long five-game losing streak with a 5-1 loss to Duluth East (24-4) right in the middle of it. Since the losing streak, the Spuds are 7-3-1 and are looking to give the Greyhounds’ smooth season a jolt.

“I think it was a good draw for us,” said Moorhead center Thomas Carey, who has 37 points for the Spuds. “It’s always big to play a team that you already know a lot about.”

Hard to imagine Duluth East could hold a grudge after 16 straight wins, but hanging in the Greyhounds locker room is a newspaper sports section highlighting the Greyhound’s first loss to rival Duluth Denfeld in nearly two decades. That was 16 wins ago, and the newspaper is traveling with them to St. Paul.

“Everybody has motivation,” Moorhead coach Peter Cullen said. “We’re in the state tournament. We have a pretty quality team, and we’ve been in some other contests with some of the best teams in the state. I love the way we’re playing right now. We’re peaking at the right time, and they guys are on the same page.”

The Greyhounds have more motivation outside of the rink, as they lost more than a game Saturday when 30-year-old Jon Hedberg died in a skiing accident. Hedberg played two seasons for the Greyhounds and was a freshman defenseman on the 1998 Class 2A championship team, which was set for a 15-year reunion at the state hockey tournament. The Greyhounds will wear a sticker with Hedberg’s No. 2 on their helmets at the state tournament.

In the rink, the Greyhounds have four players with more points than any Moorhead skater in Jack Forbort (61 points), Alex Toscano (55), Meirs Moore (47) and Ryan Lundgren (45), with one of the winningest coaches in state history in Mike Randolph – who passed the 500-win mark this season – at the helm. It will be a quick turnaround from top seed to underdog for the Spuds.

“We feel like the pressure is on them to win,” said Moorhead forward Aaron Herdt, who has 38 points for the Spuds. “They’re expected to win. I think we’re just as good if not better than anyone out there right now.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548