Yes Spuds fans. Your boys are going to back to the state tournament.
Moorhead picked up a 3-1 win over Brainerd in the Class 2A, Section 8 finals on Thursday advancing to the Minnesota state hockey tournament for the third time in the last four seasons.
With Moorhead going to the state tournament, it’s now time for the craze which has swept the USHL. Or at least the Fargo Force: a statistical analysis.
-Michael Bitzer, senior, goaltender: Bitzer hadn’t really been tested during the playoffs. His defense suffocated Monticello-Annandale-Maple Lake and Roseau to allow 25 shots over two games. Brainerd had 25 shots in the game and Bitzer stopped 24 of them. Bitzer came up with the big save time and again proving he could be the frontrunner for the Frank Brimsek Award for Minnesota’s Best Senior Goaltender. But here’s what could help/hurt him for the award. The last two winners have come from Section 8 but they didn’t reach the state tournament. Maybe Bitzer does both. He certainly did a lot Thursday and now advances to his third state title appearance in four years.
-Terry Leabo, senior, defenseman: People can say what they want about Bitzer and Logan Ness (we will later), but for our money, Leabo might have been the best player on this team throughout the season. Leabo marshalled a defense tonight, which made Brainerd take fewer shots than normal. He led a defense which stopped Matt Pohlkamp (Bowling Green), who only had one assist. Take that and combine it with what this defense has done over the last two weeks and its safe to say they have proven Moorhead’s low-goal totals are more than just Bitzer. That’s why Leabo will be playing juniors next season in Alexandria (NAHL) with Bitzer, but if he keeps this up, maybe its in the USHL instead. He also had an empty-net goal too. It was certainly a complete night for Leabo.
-Logan Ness, senior, forward: Ness came up big again scoring the game-winning goal in the third period. What led to his goal might be the biggest part of the game. Moorhead drew two penalties for a 5-on-3 chance leading to Nesss capitalizing on the chance. Ness has arugably had the best playoffs of any forward on the team. He opened with a five-goal performance and his bookend effort was the game-winning goal. Yes. Ness has six goals in three games. Like the signs at the games say, “Ness Is More.”
-Moorhead’s hockey program: Those new to the analysis will learn we tend to look at the team or in this case, program, as a whole. We had a story in Wednesday’s Forum stating Moorhead was undefeated in its last 13 games against Brainerd going back to the 2004-05. Then we got an email from a fan saying the dominance actually extends back to 1990. The fan states Moorhead is 24-2-1 against Brainerd heading into the section final. If that’s true and it really is 25 wins that’s more than a dominant stretch. That’s a reign of terror.