If the Brainerd Warriors hope to get another shot at the Moorhead Spuds they’re going to have to make the Section 8-2A semifinals or finals.
For the second time this season the seventh-ranked Spuds handled the Warriors, this time by a 4-0 score Tuesday night at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
Even though the Warriors outshot Moorhead 33-25, the Spuds capitalized on chances, expanding on a 1-0 lead with three third-period goals, two in the final 3-plus minutes.
The loss may have cost Brainerd the No. 2 seed in the section playoffs. Bemidji beat Brainerd head-to-head. That likely will carry weight when section coaches seed Wednesday.
“In all honesty with the seedings, I foresee us getting placed third,” Warriors coach Jim Archibald said. “We had a lot of (coaches) talking by email today and there were four or five guys that basically said they wanted to wait and see what happened in the game between Moorhead and Brainerd tonight.
“Had we won this game, definitely, we would have been second.”
With the win Moorhead wrapped up the No. 1 seed with Roseau likely fourth.
“I’ve pretty much decided Roseau is No. 4,” Spuds coach Dave Morinville said. “The big decision is between Brainerd and Bemidji.
“I look at head-to-head competition as the huge criteria. I was telling Jim that I just can’t believe you guys couldn’t have worked it out to play (Bemidji) twice. That would have made it better. That’s why we try to play everyone twice.”
Moorhead’s Thomas Carey opened the scoring at 9:33 of the first. Positioning himself left of Warriors goalie Jared Stearns, Carey accepted a crisp pass from teammate Nick Uglem and slapped the disc in.
The sleek skating Spuds had a few opportunities against Stearns, who turned away 10 of the 11 shots he faced in the first. Brainerd, however, posed no serious threat against Moorhead goalie Michael Bitzer in the first. He finished with 33 saves.
“Obviously, we’ve got a great goalie,” Morinville said. “We rely on Bitzer an awful lot. He made some saves when he needed to.
“We played pretty good away from him. Like I always say, your offense might have an off-night, but your defense can never take a night off, and obviously that’s the way we played it.”
The Warriors, who lost for the first time in 10 games, had few opportunities until the third when they outshot Moorhead 16-8. Matt Pohlkamp and Cole Smith had chances in that period, but were unable to convert. Most of Brainerd’s shots were directly at Bitzer, who often used his pads and midsecton to make the stop.
“We came out flat in the first,” Archibald said, “and I have no idea why. As coaches we just finished sitting and talking about it for 10 minutes about how we could have better prepared this team. We feel we’ve done everything possible to get them ready.
“The boys, for some unknown reason, didn’t respond tonight. I don’t know if it’s a mental block in their heads that we’ve never beaten Moorhead (since Jan. 29, 2000, or 17 straight games). Maybe it’s just that we’ve got to get that first one before they realize they can. Man for man, I think we’re as good, if not better, than they are.”
In the third, Moorhead’s Bryant Christian broke away short-handed but was stymied by Stearns. Then the flood gates opened as Tony Uglem scored at 2:16, Logan Ness connected on a power play at 13:25 and Aaron Herdt tallied into an empty net with 68 seconds remaining.
Moorhead 1 0 3 — 4
Brainerd 0 0 0 — 0
First period: M-Thomas Carey (Nick Uglem) 9:33
Second period: No scoring
Third period: M-Tony Uglem (Carey, Nick Uglem) 2:16; M-Logan Ness (Tony Uglem, Bryant Christian) ppg 13:25; M-Aaron Herdt (Tony Uglem) eng 15:52
Shots on goal: Brd 11-6-16-33, M 11-6-8-25
Goalies: Brd-Jared Stearns (21 saves); M-Michael Bitzer (33 saves)
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.