Moorhead's Tony Uglem (10) celebrates his first-period goal with linemate Grant Weiss (20). Photo by Tim Kolehmainen.
Moorhead senior goalie Peter MacFarlane (30) peeks around his defenseman Will Borgen (19) and a Roseau forward.
How do you replace the irreplaceable?
It’s a question Moorhead goaltender Peter MacFarlane probably hasn’t heard this winter. Not that everybody wasn’t wondering how the Spuds would fare without longtime goalie Michael Bitzer between the pipes. They most certainly were.
You remember Bitzer, right?
He’s the guy who started nearly every game in goal since his freshman year at Moorhead. The one who helped the Spuds to three state berths in those four years. The one who capped a record-setting career by winning the Frank Brimsek award as the state’s best senior goaltender.
Oh, yeah, that Bitzer.
Out of decency and a bit of Minnesota nice, MacFarlane hasn’t been asked much about how he could possibly replace Bitzer. How could he?
“I don’t think anybody’s trying to compare me to him at all,” said MacFarlane, who backed up Bitzer last year but didn’t see a single second of action. “He’s the best goalie Moorhead has ever had and one of the best in the state the last 10 years. He’s a stud.”
That’s not to say the question hasn’t been whispered around the rink on game night. The buzz was likely louder after the Spuds’ first five games this year. Even though he won two of his three decisions, MacFarlane admitted he wasn’t playing well. He’d allowed 14 goals in the three games but was bailed out by a high-scoring Moorhead offense.
But after Tuesday night’s 4-3 overtime victory against Roseau, the din will most certainly die down.
With the game hanging in the balance, MacFarlane turned in his finest performance. He stopped 28 of 31 shots, including some spectacular glove saves against Roseau’s sniping duo of Zach Yon and Alex Strand.
“I’ve been struggling coming into this game, to say the least,” admitted MacFarlane. “It was real nice to see some of the pucks hit me for once. And the guys in front of me played a hell of a game.”
“It’s tough to replace Frank Brimsek there,” joked Thomas Carey, whose goal 6 minutes, 10 seconds into overtime gave the Spuds and MacFarlane the victory. “But (Peter) played huge. He played just like Bitzer did last year, coming up huge when we needed him.”
Moorhead coach Pete Cullen agreed that the victory should be a good confidence booster for his goaltender, but even more so for the whole team. “There were tons of questions surrounding the goaltender coming into this year,” Cullen said. “If Peter can keep continuing to do these types of performances, it’s going to solidify the rest of our team.”
MacFarlane knows his style is different than his predecessor, but he’s hoping to carry forward the momentum from Tuesday night. Perhaps deep into the section playoffs, perhaps into the state tournament – but first, into the Spuds’ next game Saturday afternoon against Centennial.
The proverbial one puck at a time.
“I just have to go out there and play my game -- slow it down, control what I can control and not try to be a hero,” said MacFarlane. “Just go out there and stop the first (shot) and if I have to stop the second one, stop that one, too.”
Alex Strand (5) of Roseau rubs out a Moorhead defenseman.
Nemesis seemed to be a perfect word for Tuesday’s Section 8AA tilt between Roseau and Moorhead. Not only are the two annual contenders for the section title – they’ve won every one since 1996 – but they tend to be a thorn in each other’s side more often than not.
The perfect nemesis.
“It’s been us and them as long as I can remember,” said Moorhead goaltender Peter MacFarlane.
Nemesis also describes what each team was facing Tuesday night as it tried to end a stalemate. Deep into the night, the two rivals were tied at 3-3.
The Roseau crossbar was a puck magnet for the Spuds in the final 20 minutes, as they pinged the iron more often than a beer league softball slugger. Tony Uglem nearly ended the game from the high slot, but his wrister clanged off the bar and out. Three minutes later, Aaron Herdt dented nearly the same spot, dinging the crossbar like a bell.
“They liked hitting it off the bar and out,” joked Moorhead coach Pete Cullen. “Probably tomorrow we’ll have a little shooting practice and teach them how to go bar down.”
On the other end of the rink, the Rams weren’t finding iron – it was all leather in their way. MacFarlane twice denied the Rams with highlight-reel glove saves that drew oohs and aahs from the Sports Center crowd. First, he snared a blistering Zach Yon snapper that was ticketed for the top corner. Then in overtime MacFarlane flashed leather to nab Alex Strand’s rocket.
In the end, the game came down to a simple question: who would defeat their nemesis first, Moorhead’s “iron workers” or Roseau’s “leather men?”
The Spuds’ Thomas Carey answered that question 6 minutes, 10 seconds into overtime, when he tipped in Alex Mehnert’s shot from the point. The puck didn’t find iron – or leather – only twine.
“Usually a game winner is kind of grindy or greasy,” said Carey. “We were just trying to get it on net and hope to get a rebound goal or something to go in.”
Roseau's Alex Strand (5) celebrates his goal late in the second period that tied the score at 2-2.
Thomas Carey scored 6 minutes, 10 seconds into overtime to give Moorhead a 4-3 victory over visiting Roseau Tuesday, Dec. 11 at the Moorhead Sports Center. Carey's goal came on a redirection of Alex Mehnert's shot from the point, setting off a wild celebration for the home Spuds.
It was another big Section 8AA victory for Moorhead (5-1-0), which had already defeated Bemidji and Buffalo in the past week. The defending section champions have set themselves up early to earn a top seed, but there is still plenty of season left.
There were three ties and two lead changes in the back-and-forth game between the Rams (3-2-1) and Moorhead.
Tony Uglem gave the Spuds a 1-0 lead just 45 seconds into the game and Roseau's Jack Helgeson answered back just 1 minute, 43 seconds later. Aaron Herdt regained a one-goal lead for Moorhead later in the first period. But Alex Strand scored in the final minute of the second period and Zach Yon in the first minute of the third to give the Rams their first lead.
That advantage held just 49 seconds, as Leif Johnson hammered home a goal from the high slot to tie the score at 3-all, setting up Carey's overtime heroics.
Peter MacFarlane had a big game in goal for Moorhead, stopping 28 shots -- including a pair of highlight-reel glove saves late in the game against Yon and Strand. Ryan Anderson made 32 saves for Roseau.
1. Thomas Carey, Moorhead
After the Spuds had hit the pipe a handful of times in the final period, Carey found the center of the net with his overtime winner. Crashing the net, he deflected an Alex Mehnert drive from the point for the game-winner. Carey also picked up an assist on the tying goal by Leif Johnson early in the third.
2. Peter MacFarlane, Moorhead
MacFarlane has the uneviable task of replacing Michael Bitzer in goal this winter, but on this night he was up to the task. The senior made 28 saves, including a pair of game-saving glove saves on Roseau snipers Zach Yon and Alex Strand late in the third period and overtime. Both drew oohs and aahs from the appreciate crowd -- and groans from the Rams' bench.
3. Alex Strand, Roseau
Strand is one of the engines that makes the Roseau offense go, and he did just that Tuesday night. Elusive and quick, he has a knack for finding open space. Strand scored with 25 seconds left in the second to tie the game at 2-all, then assisted on Zach Yon's goal 40 seconds into the third to give Roseau its only lead.