It wasn’t another overtime game, but unfortunately it was a loss.
The Brainerd Warriors, whose last three games ended in overtime, with two of those losses, couldn’t keep up with the defending Section 8-2A champion Moorhead Spuds Tuesday night and fell 4-1 at Brainerd Area Civic Center.
Moorhead, ranked 13th in 2A, scored twice in the first eight minutes and twice in the final 21-plus minutes to secure its fifth win in its last five games.
“As coaches, we believe we’ve got a pretty good team here,” Warriors coach Jim Archibald said. “Unfortunately, we have too many peaks and valleys during the game. We need to become more consistent.
“We’re only six games into the season. We’ve got some work ahead of us. The boys have some work ahead of them. We’ve got some things we’re going to correct.”
The Warriors did outshoot Moorhead 35-34, but they were outshot 26-15 through two periods and were unable to capitalize on four power plays. Brainerd maintained a 20-8 edge in the final period, during which the only score was an empty netter by Moorhead’s Aaron Herdt just in front of the final buzzer.
Goalie Kyle Helmberger kept the Warriors close with another sparkling effort. He had no chance on every goal — the first three were deflected, the last one he was off the ice in favor of a sixth attacker.
“Kyle is a mainstay,” Archibald said. “He’s played very well all six games. As I stated earlier, he just has to give us the opportunity to win, and he’s been doing that.
“We need to work a little on the mental part of the game. Physically, we’re there, but there’s a few things that need work and we’re going to get back at that (Wednesday).”
The Warriors had their chances all game, but particularly in the third. The best one in that period was a backhander near the crease by Cole Smith in front of Spuds goalie Jacob Dittmer, who blocked the attempt. Dittmer was tested frequently in the third and rose to every challenge throughout the game.
“We had some opportunities, the puck didn’t bounce our way,” Archibald said. “In the third period, I think we had 2-3 opportunities where the puck’s laying there, and we either fan on it or the goalie gets a pad on it. That’s part of the game, but we can’t keep putting ourselves in a position where we have to fight and claw back.
“We need to come out and play hard and be more consistent. Down the road, that’s all we ask and hopefully the boys are going to step up and respond.”
Helmberger was extremely sharp in the second, stopping 13 of the 14 shots he faced.
Griffin Campbell pulled the Warriors within 2-1 with a goal from a sharp angle to the left of Dittmer at 5:19.
Helmberger then was challenged by Nick Uglem in a 2-on-1, and by Nick Paulson and Herdt, both close in front within about a minute, but Helmberger kicked them all away.
The Spuds struck at 12:27 of the second when Leif Johnson tipped in a Herdt shot from the point.
Later in the second, Helmberger denied Thomas Carey, who grabbed a turnover in the slot and drilled a dart.
Jake Ellingson had Brainerd’s best additional chance early in the second when he stole the puck in the slot on a turnover but Dittmer saved the laser.
Tony Uglem gave the Spuds a 2-0 edge in the first eight minutes by redirecting two shots past Helmberger, whose team was outshot 12-6 in the session.
Tony Uglem’s first goal came after Helmberger thwarted Uglem’s twin brother Nick on a breakaway. Moments later, Tony Uglem redirected Nick Uglem’s shot from the right point into the mesh.
Three-plus minutes later, Will Borgen took a shot from the left point that was deflected through traffic by Tony Uglem for a 2-0 Moorhead lead.
Brainerd’s best opportunity in the first was by Ellingson, whose breakaway was halted by Dittmer.
• Brainerd is 4-38-1 alltime against the Spuds, 0-19-1 in the last 20 games in the series.
• The game was a rematch of the 2012 Section 8 final, won 3-1 by Moorhead.
• Moorhead’s only losses are to fourth-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret’s and 17th-ranked Centennial.
Moorhead 2 1 1 — 3
Brainerd 0 1 0 — 1
First period: M-Tony Uglem (Nick Uglem, Alex Mehnert) 3:23; M-Tony Uglem (Will Borgen) 7:09
Second period: Brd-Griffin Campbell (Reno Fussy, Isaac Johnson) 5:19; M-Leif Johnson (Aaron Herdt, Eric Barker) 12:27
Third period: M-Herdt eng 16:59
Shots on goal: Brd 6-9-20—35, M 12-14-8—34
Goalies: Brd-Kyle Helmberger (30 saves); M-Jacob Dittmer (34 saves).
Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.