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Chris Murphy, Published January 30 2014

Brainerd uses big 2nd period to knock off Moorhead in boys hockey

MOORHEAD – Moorhead senior center Aaron Herdt stared wide-eyed at the wall outside the locker room trying to gather his thoughts as to what happened in Thursday’s 5-3 boys hockey loss to Brainerd.

It was “Senior Night,” it was the Spuds’ last regular-season home game of the season, and it was a night he notched the 100th point of his career.

Three minutes changed a special night into just another loss.

“We let up and kept our foot off the gas pedal,” Herdt said. “It was only a few minutes, but they score in bunches. We can’t take time off.”

Moorhead led 2-0 after one period, but Brainerd scored three goals in the first three minutes of the second period to suck the life out of the Moorhead Sports Center.

“A two-goal lead is a nice cushion, but it can be taken away just like that,” Herdt said. “Just like that, the next thing you know we’re behind, and we don’t like to play from behind.”

Nate DeChaine stuffed home a rebound on a Cole Smith shot one minute into the second frame to pull Brainerd within one. Issac Johnson tied it 1 minute, 4 seconds later, and Smith put the Warriors (12-6-1) ahead 45 seconds later.

“We came out with energy and playing on our toes,” Moorhead coach Jon Ammerman said. “That’s the fine line between success. We take our foot of the gas for three minutes, and then we’re on our heels, playing catch-up the rest of the game. That’s a tough way to play.”

Brainerd didn’t stop there. With 5:20 to go in the second period, Jake Ellingson put the Warriors up 4-2 and sent Moorhead (9-10-1) to the locker room stunned and down two.

Eli Johnson made it a one-goal game on a slap shot to cut the Brainerd lead to 4-3 with 3:51 to go, but Smith added his fourth point of the game with an empty-net goal. The Spuds poured 15 shots on goal in the third period – outshooting the Warriors by 11 – but it wasn’t enough.

“We did put up a fight, but, at the same time, when we had opportunities, we didn’t do enough to put them away,” Ammerman said.

It was just the sixth time in the 47 matchups between the two teams that Brainerd defeated Moorhead. The Spuds have a 40-6-1 record against the Warriors, but the Spuds don’t need a history lesson. The present section standings are more important, with the Warriors moving to 7-3-0 in Class 2A, Section 8 and the Spuds falling to 5-2-1.

“It’s too early to tell,” Ammerman said. “There’s still some games left that will determine what and where we do end up. There’s still a couple weeks left before state.”

Recent history may interest Moorhead. Last season, the Spuds fell to Brainerd for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, snapping a 19-0-1 streak thanks to a four-goal second-period by the Warriors. The Spuds found redemption with a win over the Warriors in the section championship.

“The good news is there’s a tomorrow,” Ammerman said. “It’s the end of January, and we still have a couple weeks until we gear up for that final push. Maybe this is the right time for a wakeup call. We’re pushing for that third week in February, and we got to be playing our best hockey then.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, M, Mehnert (Masseth, Johnson), 12:34, (pp). 2, M, Weiss (Herdt), 12:52.

SECOND PERIOD: 3, B, DeChaine (Smith), 1:00. 4, B, Johnson (Blanch, Severson), 2:04. 5, B, Smith (Rivard, Ellingson), 2:49. 6, B, Ellingson (Smith, Rivard).

THIRD PERIOD: 7, M, Herdt, 7:54, (sh). 8, B, Smith (Ellingson, Desrocher), 16:36, (empty net).

SAVES: B, Mick 13-10-14–37. M, Dittmer 2-11-3–16

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