ROSEAU, Minn. — Moorhead senior captain Max Dronen didn’t want another season to end in Roseau.
Too many seasons in his youth hockey career ended inside Roseau Memorial Arena and he was determined to make sure his Spuds came out on top this time.
Dronen scored a goal and had a pair of assists for Moorhead as they defeated archrival Roseau 5-1 to win Moorhead’s third straight Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 championship on Thursday on the Rams’ home ice.
Moorhead advanced to its 18th state tournament beginning next Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“I wanted it so bad,” Dronen said. “I really wanted it. Before the game I kept thinking back to my youth career and when my seasons have ended in this barn. We’ve played Roseau pretty much every year and it seems like it always ended here. I wanted some redemption and came out firing.”
Dronen and the Spuds came out firing, indeed, scoring two quick goals in the first period.
Sophomore right wing Harper Bentz opened the scoring 4 minutes, 26 seconds into the first period with a goal off a rebound to make it 1-0.
Bentz then set up Dronen with a goal a few minutes later. Bentz brought the puck into the zone on the right wing, and centered to the captain in the high slot and he fired into the net as he went down to one knee.
“I’m just happy for the seniors, we wanted to win this one for them,” Bentz said. “We’ve got three more years here, but it’s the seniors last year and we’re going to The X for them.”
Moorhead coach Jon Ammerman said the fast start was key for the Spuds. The Rams scored two quick goals in the first period in a Roseau 4-2 home win during the regular season. And he didn’t want his team to be playing from behind again.
“Year in and year out when we come up here, it seems like they get off to a fast start,” Ammerman said. “We talked about no matter the score, we wanted the first few minutes to be one where we come out and set a pace.”
The Rams got one back on an Aaron Wensloff goal early in the second period and the Spuds didn’t answer before the second intermission.
Moorhead and Roseau went into the third period separated by just a goal. The game could swing either way. And then the Spuds took control.
Moorhead scored three goals in the third period, including two separated by just 14 seconds as they claimed victory on their rival’s ice. Dronen, the Spuds captain, played a hand in all three goals.
On the first goal in the third, he fought for a puck that appeared to be in the goalie’s glove but wasn’t. The play continued and the puck wound up with Grant Frisch at the left point. Frisch played the puck in behind the net, it deflected off the boards out in front, and Reierson picked it up and scored it.
Fourteen seconds later, Dronen assisted on a goal by Bentz.
On the third goal, Dronen flew in after a change to take the puck away on the forecheck on the right side. He wrapped around and got a shot on goal, and Carson Triggs came in to clean up the rebound and put it in to push the Spuds to a 5-1 lead.
“I was impressed with our compete,” Ammerman said. “It was an emotional game. All section games are. But when you’re in an away arena in a tight game, you need those veteran guys to step up for you. Max was a man on a mission.”
The Spuds have come a long way from the start of the season when they won just one of their first five games and had to grind for every goal. They’re now riding a six-game winning streak into the state tournament, defeating their last six opponents by a combined score of 26-5, including an 8-1 win over St. Michael Albertville in the section semifinal and the 5-1 win over Roseau in the final.
“This team — all the way all season it was supposed to be Roseau’s year,” Dronen said. “We were the underdog all season. We made a nice little run. We got the 2 seed in the section and we came to play tonight.”
The state tournament is taking a familiar shape this year, with seven of the eight teams returning from last year’s tournament. The returning squads are Lakeville South (Section 1), Eden Prairie (Section 2), St. Thomas Academy (Section 3), Hill-Murray (Section 4), Maple Grove (Section 5), Andover (Section 7) and Moorhead (Section 8). The lone newcomer to this year’s field is Section 6 champion Wayzata.
Moorhead played two teams in the field, Hill Murray and Wayzata, both on the road. The Spuds lost to Hill Murray 2-0 and Wayzata 4-1.
“We’re going to go into it just trying to continue to play our game,” Ammerman said. “We’re a team, now we have another week to get better. We’ll see where we lay in terms of the seeds, I don’t think we’ll expect to be seeded. We’re going to give it our best effort and we’ll see where the chips lay.”
FIRST: 1, M, Bentz (Reierson, Gramer) 4:26. 2, M, Dronen (Bentz) 8:57.
SECOND: 1, R, Wensloff (Severson) 4:02
THIRD: 3, M, Reierson (Frisch, Bentz) 3:22. 4, M, Bentz (Dronen) 3:36. 5, M, Triggs (Dronen) 8:44.
SAVES: M, Kunka 28; R, Tuttle 27.