Rogers senior Josh Bridell sat on the bench after the Royals 6-0 loss to Moorhead on Feb. 21 and just took it all in. The endless long car rides with family, which turned into long bus rides with teammates. The locker room moments, the roller coaster of emotions with winning and losing and the fact that he and the rest of the Royals seniors would never be playing a varsity game together again.
“There are guys that may have not gotten along the best together at times but I know how much every single guy cared about one another,” Bridell said about his teammates. “Everyday, whether I was feeling hockey or not, these guys made me enjoy hanging out in the locker room and on the ice.”
The Royals made one of those long bus rides up to Moorhead on Tuesday afternoon ahead of their Section 8AA quarterfinal matchup against the Spuds. The Royals were 13-11-1 in the regular season, but in one of the state’s toughest sections, they were still given the No. 8 seed and would need to take down the No. 1 seed to advance. Moorhead’s regular season record was 19-3-3, with all three losses coming early in the regular season. The Spuds haven’t lost a game in 2017.
“We knew they hadn’t lost since around Christmas, but I told the boys that there are two things we say in our program since day one,” Bridell said. “That is that we can control both our attitudes and effort and I think we did great at both of those tonight. What it really came down to was that we started playing on the penalty kill in the second period which gave them momentum and the Spuds did a crazy good job at sending guys to the net for rebounds from shots from the point.”
The teams entered the locker room at the conclusion of the first period tied 0-0 after a good opening period by Rogers goalie Johnny Preusse. He stopped all 12 shots that came his way in the first period to keep the score tied. He made 34 saves on the night.
The Moorhead scoring started 25 seconds into the second period when Carter Randklev threw a backhanded shot at Preusse that he couldn’t get his glove on. The Royals then battled off a five-minute major penalty before the Spuds scored nine minutes into the second period to make it 2-0. Nolan Westra was awarded the goal for the Spuds after he redirected a shot from Ethan Frisch.
The Royals players would have been happy to get out of the period down just two goals but Moorhead continued the offensive pressure, scoring twice more in the second period to make it 4-0 into the second intermission. The fourth goal came with 2.9 seconds left in the period when Randklev scored his second goal of the night. He would complete the hat trick in the third period when he scored late to make it 5-0. Spuds’ Landon Overbo completed the scoring with his first varsity goal in the final seconds of the game.
The Royals graduate eleven seniors from the 2016-17 team which will give lots of underclassman opportunities in the coming years under head coach Todd Weisjahn. Just seven non-seniors had varsity experience this season. The Royals will rely on Sophomores Justin Grudem (24 points this season) and Mitchell Becker (17 points) to help lead the charge.
“I think the biggest thing to come out of this team not and in the future, is just the bond,” Bridell said. “I told the guys tonight, the gift of getting to play high school hockey in Minnesota is a blessing so I hope more than anything they take advantage of those opportunities and getting to be together every day.”