HDM: Spotlight part of Moorhead hockey's 'new norm'

BY Ryan Lund • January 19, 2018

On Saturday, the Moorhead High School boys hockey team will be featured on FOX Sports North as part of Hockey Day Minnesota 2018.

They're are also the subject of "Dream. State," a six-part documentary series produced by FOX Sports North and StateOfHockey.com. The series will air in February and March, a few months after the Spuds made an appearance on ESPN's SportsCenter thanks to a goal gone viral.

Welcome to Moorhead's "new norm."

"It was different for me as an adult. It was interesting navigating what that was going to be like and trying to be genuine," head coach Jon Ammerman said of having a camera crew around the team. "If that's difficult for adults it's going to be difficult for kids."

The series premieres in February, and chronicles Moorhead's season a year after their loss to Grand Rapids in the Class 2A state championship game. Fortunately for Ammerman, his Spuds have handled it well.

"The kids have been really good. The crew itself is awesome," he said. "They had experience last year with Eden Prairie and Stillwater, so they know what high school kids are like and they know the gig."

A Moorhead native, Ammerman welcomes the attention as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the Spuds and their homegrown approach to the game.

"It's an opportunity to tell the story of Moorhead hockey," he said.

Ammerman grew up in Moorhead, where he played for the Spuds before spending a season in the USHL and four at St. Cloud State.

"One thing that I think, one thing I'm proud of, is that we're a community-based hockey town," he said. "We have kids that grow up, come through our system and eventually play for our high school."

The approach has paid off over the years: Moorhead has been to 15 state tournaments and eight state title games.

Expectations were high for the Spuds (12-6) heading into the 2017-18 season, but Moorhead's season has progressed in fits and starts. Their struggles culminated in a shutout loss to Brainerd earlier this month, their first since Dec. 29, 2016.

However, following a 13-1 win over Breck on Saturday and a 3-1 victory over Andover on Monday, Ammerman is hopeful.

"What our guys have figured out is that winning and having success is not something that comes naturally," he said. "You have to go through some adversity."

When it comes to success, his players have plenty of Spuds alums to look up to.

Wild forward Matt Cullen has won the Stanley Cup three times and is in the midst of his 20th NHL season. Will Borgen is a standout defenseman at SCSU and is set to represent the U.S. at the Winter Olympics. Bemidji State goaltender Michael Bitzer recently moved into second on the NCAA's all-time shutouts list.

"All those guys stayed through their senior year," Ammerman said. "They trusted the process and they were rewarded because of it."

The process has paid dividends for two of Moorhead's top players.

Senior forward Carter Randklev and junior defenseman Ethan Frisch are committed to college hockey powerhouse North Dakota, the first Spuds stars to join the Fighting Hawks since former Moorhead star Chris VandeVelde in 2006.

Randklev made headlines late last year, landing the No. 8 spot on SportsCenter's top-10 plays after turnstiling a defender with a crafty deke.

To Ammerman, it's yet another example of the "Minnesota Model" at work.

"It’s a good thing for people throughout the state and the country to see," he said.

The larger Minnesota hockey community will get another look Saturday at 4:30 p.m., when the Spuds take on Centennial as part of Hockey Day Minnesota 2018. The Spuds are bringing a major Moorhead contingent along for the ride.

"Every single youth hockey team in our town has the day off or has a game within an hour of St. Cloud," Ammerman said.

Just call it the new normal.

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