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Moorhead tops Hill-Murray for spot in boys hockey semifinals

Moorhead's Matt Hebranson celebrates his second-period goal against Hill-Murray Thursday, March 9, 2017, during the Minnesota Class 2A state boys hockey tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. David Samson / Forum News Service

For a team with no player that has ever played in the state boys hockey tournament, there were no wide eyes at the bright lights of Xcel Energy Center on the side of Moorhead in the Class 2A quarterfinals Thursday.

The hearts of the No. 3 seed Spuds beat calmly because senior Jacob Holtgrewe, whom coach Jon Ammerman has called the “pulse” of the team, wouldn’t allow a heart attack.

“I just think he has a good gauge on how we’re doing as a team,” Ammerman said. “We’re on a little bit of a streak, and the streak started when Jake got back in our lineup. I don’t know if it’s things that he does in the locker room, on the bench or both, but since he’s been back, we’ve been good.”

The Spuds were good March 9, knocking off Hill-Murray 4-2 and setting up a matchup with Lakeville South in the state semifinals on Friday. The win put Moorhead at 17-0-2 in its last 19 games.

It began with Holtgrewe, as his goal less than three minutes into the game showed the crowd of more than 18,000 that Moorhead wasn’t there to take in the sights.

“We knew it’d be tough and we’d have to come out to our best ability to beat a team like Hill-Murray, especially considering we just played them a couple weeks ago,” Holtgrewe said. “We knew that first goal would be huge, especially considering the momentum going in our favor, which totally helped us out the whole game.”

Hill-Murray snapped a scoreless streak of 198 minutes, 38 seconds for Moorhead when Joseph Quast tied things up 6:27 into the second.

“We don’t really have tricks up our sleeve,” Ammerman said. “We don’t really run set plays or anything like that. It’s kids that work hard and play the game the right way and when they have the opportunity they make plays.”

The Spuds (23-3-3) answered with two breakaway goals. Carter Randklev broke loose on a neutral zone turnover and went top shelf to put the Spuds up 2-1. Matt Herbranson poked the puck loose in the neutral zone, made a Hill-Murray defender miss and was gone to make it a 3-1 game 38 seconds after Randklev scored. Herbranson had four goals in his first 49 varsity hockey games. He now has three in his last two.

“We didn’t think it was going to be easy,” Herbranson said. “You got a fast team like Hill-Murray and a lot of us don’t have that much experience, so we just have to worry about the things we can control. We just have to rebound when teams score like that and we did.”

Hill-Murray didn’t go away. Derick Breezee’s power-play goal from the point cut the Moorhead lead back to one with 4:11 left in the second.

Jack Stetz, however, had another Spud rebound. With Moorhead on the penalty kill, Stetz had a 2-on-1 with Holtgrewe late in the second. He held it himself and fired a laser into the back of the net for a 4-2 Moorhead lead with 31.3 seconds left in the second.

“Every goal we got in the second period gave us more energy and we just didn't stop,” Stetz said.

Neither did the pulse.

“I think it means a lot, especially for our town, just to show that this is really where we belong,” Holtgrewe said.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, M, Holtgrewe (Kleven, Beedy), 2:44.SECOND PERIOD: 2, H-M, Quast (Fleischhacker, Uner), 6:27. 3, M, Randklev, 9:53. 4, M, Herbranson (Kleven, Holtgrewe), 10:31. 5, H-M, Breezee (Fleischhacker), 12:49, pp. 6, M, Stetz, 16:28, short-handed.THIRD PERIOD: no scoring.SAVES: H-M, Begley 12-7-15–34. M, Leonard 8-10-6–24.
Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy is a sports reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school and college sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009 and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so.

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