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St. Michael-Albertville holds off Moorhead's late rally to win section hockey championship

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BEMIDJI, Minn. -- It was an ending fit for a movie. The crowd at Sanford Center gasped as the puck found the stick of Moorhead senior and University of North Dakota commit Carter Randklev. Moorhead was going to get one more shot and it was on the stick of a senior sitting fourth in Moorhead history for career goals.

Moorhead had trailed St. Michael-Albertville by three goals to with 2 minutes, 19 seconds to go in Wednesday’s Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 boys hockey championship. Yet, there the Spuds were with the puck on the stick belonging to their best player with a chance to tie.

Randklev glided through the left circle, a STMA defenseman slid to alter his timing just a bit, and Randklev fired high. The Knights had their first section championship in program history with a 6-5 win, and Moorhead had heartbreak.

“That was a hold-your-breath moment,” STMA sophomore winger Luc Laylin said.

A season that began with highest of expectations, an invitation to “Hockey Day” and the bright lights of a documentary ended without the brightest lights of all. The Spuds will not see the spotlight of the Minnesota state hockey tournament, and STMA will no longer have to dream of its first ever trip to Xcel Energy Center.

“That defenseman made a heck of a sliding play to try to deflect that away,” Randklev said. “That’s just one of those moments that’s either it goes in or it doesn’t and in that case, obviously, it didn’t go in. That’s tough for all of us because I could’ve potentially tied it up.”

When Luc Laylin stuffed home a rebound with 3:02 remaining in the third period to put the Knights up 6-3 everyone in Sanford Center thought the game was over. The Spuds weren’t ready to go quietly, as Isaac Henkemeyer-Howe scored on a redirect with the Moorhead goalie pulled 30 seconds later, and Cole O’Connell scored on a wrister with the goalie pulled less than a minute later to cut the lead to 6-5. The Spuds had one final shot at the buzzer, but Randklev went high.

“We told ourselves we have to come back,” O’Connell said. “We have to stay in this game. We have to work hard. The reward of this is going to the Xcel Energy Center and it’s the best experience of your life. It’s what we talked about, but we didn’t come through.”

Moorhead gave St. Michael-Albertville a rude welcome to the Knights’ first ever section championship game, scoring twice in the first 1:41 of the game. The first came with a lot of luck, as Parker Larson flipped a puck from center ice to the right corner of the offensive zone, but it took a weird change in direction as STMA goalie Justin Damon went out to play it 55 seconds into the game. Less than a minute later, Karson Kvalevog scored on a blast from the left point to put Moorhead up 2-0.

 

The Knights called a timeout after the second goal and everything changed in the first period.

“We just have to start over fresh you could say,” Laylin said. “We just got to get back and that’s what we do every single time. Our teammates pick each other up and that’s what we did.”

Cole Lehmann got the Knights on the board with 7:22 left in the period and Adam Flammang scored off a Moorhead turnover in the high slot less than two minutes later to tie it.

Cody Kelly got STMA the lead on a shot from the left point that went far post with traffic in front of Moorhead goalie Lance Leonard with 10:33 left in the second. The Knights got a cushion and all momentum when Jordan Drobinski snuck one through the legs of Leonard with three minutes left in the second.

Moorhead scored 38 seconds into the third when Ethan Frisch found Jack Stetz at the edge of the right circle and Stetz found Carter Randklev, crashing to the net to cut the lead to 4-3. STMA responded with two rebound goals from Laylin. Moorhead made a late comeback and had a 6-on-4 advantage for the final 55 seconds, but it wasn’t enough.

“In the third period, I thought we did a really nice job of playing the way we need to, but unfortunately it was a little bit too little too late,” Moorhead coach Jon Ammerman said.

As STMA got their medals, Moorhead’s Ethan Frisch, Randklev, Henkemeyer-Howe, O’Connell, Stetz and Parker Dronen had their arms around each other. As soon as Randklev was able to leave the ice he screamed.

“I wouldn’t trade these moments with my guys for anything,” Randklev said. “It’s a tough, tough moment to go through, but I wouldn’t trade anything.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, M, Larson, 0:55. 2, M, Kvalevog (Horan, Johnson), 1:41. 3, S, Lehmann (Drobinski), 10:38. 4, S, Flammang, 12:20.SECOND PERIOD: 5, S, Kelly (Sjelin, Sigerud), 6:27. 6, S, Drobinsk (Sigerud), 14:00.THIRD PERIOD: 7, M, Randklev (Stetz, Frisch), 0:38. 8, S, Laylin (Flammang), 11:08. 9, S, Laylin (Flammang), 13:58. 10, M, Henkemeyer-Howe (Randklev, O’Connell), 14:42. 11, M, O’Connell (Frisch), 15:33. SAVES: S, Damon 6-6-16–28. M, Leonard 9-5-10–24.

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