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Chris Murphy, Published December 25 2013

Herdt finds success after sticking with the Spuds

Moorhead - Moorhead senior forward Aaron Herdt looked at the Moorhead Sports Center ice last week before a hockey practice and felt he was exactly where he needed to be.

“This is home,” Herdt said.

Herdt nearly left home in what would have been his third and final season playing varsity hockey for Moorhead. Originally, Herdt planned to forgo his senior season to play with the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League.

“It was tough to swallow that down and say, ‘I’m not going to play my senior year,’” Herdt said. “As the time went on, it grew harder and harder on me. I have a lot of Spud pride.”

Before the high school season, Herdt decided to return to the Spuds, costing him his spot on the Force.

“When he came in and told us he wanted to go back to high school, there was no way we could move him on the affiliate list,” Force assistant coach and director of player personnel Jesse Davis said. “We didn’t have room. We have to look out for the best interest of our hockey team. Right now, he’s free and clear within our league to play wherever he wants.”

Herdt returned to chase a dream that began when he started skating at 2 years old.

“Every kid’s dream growing up in Minnesota is to play in that state tournament,” Herdt said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to make it both years in high school. I decided to come back to make it three. I think we have a very good shot of going.”

No returning player had more points than Herdt last season. Moorhead was more than happy to have Herdt back, as he’s currently leading the team in points and goals.

“His experience is invaluable,” Moorhead hockey coach Jon Ammerman said. “He’s been to the state tournament twice, and he’s been through the section tournament. On the ice, he’s obviously our most dynamic player. He brings something that would have been irreplaceable.”

It was the words from former Spuds and current Nashville Predators forward Matt Cullen, who is part of a group that Herdt works out with in the summer, which helped him. Not without a few words to mock him of course.

“They would heckle me and call me a river jumper because I was going to Fargo,” Herdt said. “I remember asking (Cullen) for advice in the summer all the time, and he just said to follow what your heart says.”

Herdt had six of the Spuds’ 12 shots last season in the 1-0 state quarterfinal loss to Duluth East.

But it was a shot he never got off that nearly became his last memory as a Moorhead hockey player.

In the final seconds, with Duluth East goalie Dylan Parker out of position, Herdt got a pass from teammate Thomas Carey in the right circle. Herdt was locked and loaded, but before he could fire the final horn sounded.

“If there would have been one more second on the clock,” Herdt said. “I remember looking and saw low-glove side and then I heard the horn go off and I was bent over my knees and left saying, ‘Are you serious?’ ’’

It brought Moorhead’s state championship hopes to an end and seemingly Herdt’s high school career. Herdt wanted another shot then, and he wants another shot now.

“Why forgo your senior year when it’s just one more year?” Herdt said. “(Junior hockey) is always going to be there. (Junior hockey) is a big business too. It’s all about winning. Why go into business when I haven’t even graduated from business school yet? That’s the way I looked at it.”

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