The electricity is starting to build. It’s in the standing-room only sections of local rinks, where fans huddle over railings with their coffees, and it’s coursing through the fiber-optic cables of computers in rec rooms and office cubicles across the state of Minnesota, where message boards are already abuzz with passionate, yet polite debate about which high school team will claim the crown of state champion this year.
Some say it’ll be the Edina Hornets, a star-laden team from suburban Minneapolis coached by tough-as-nails ex-NHLer Curt Giles. Others point to the Hill-Murray Pioneers, who have routinely demolished weaker divisional opponents in the early going.
And the third candidate is the Roseau Rams, pride of a 2,700-strong community way up north near the Canadian border.
After a 4-1 victory over the East Grand Forks Green Wave on the weekend (driven by junior center Tyler Landman’s hat trick), the Rams focused their efforts on a traditionally bedeviling foe; the Moorhead Spuds.
A division rival, the Spuds had owned the Rams at home in recent years. In fact, Roseau coach Scott Oliver had never won in Moorhead.
You could say the Spuds have played white whale to Roseau’s Ahab.
“Both times we went down there thinking we would win,” said Rams captain Dustin Moser of his history against Moorhead. “Last year they were the top dog and we were the underdog…that swapped this year.”
Moser isn’t kidding: The Spuds lost 15 seniors from last year’s roster and were a very young team going in to the match with Roseau.
Undaunted by the undefeated Rams, the Moorhead faithful turned out in legion.
“It was packed,” said coach Oliver. “There must have been 2,000-plus people there.”
And while a shorthanded goal with one second left in the first period chopped an early Roseau lead in half, the vigorous forechecking of the Rams was simply too much for young Moorhead: Roseau stomped on the Spuds on their home ice, 7-2.
“It was unexpected,” coach Oliver said of the result, “I don’t think the score was indicative of where these two teams will be at the end of the year.”
The Rams spun the Spuds out of the building in the second, when Jason Fabian converted the fourth Roseau goal of the night for what would prove to be an insurmountable margin. Star defenseman Aaron Ness had a hat trick for the Rams, using a quick release that had Moorhead’s radio broadcasters marveling. Ness now has six goals and 11 points in four games.
Also scoring his first goal of the season was captain Moser, who was elected as team leader by the players themselves.
The senior was naturally honored by the nomination and takes his role seriously. Along with making sure his teammates don’t get involved in any “extra-curricular activities” as Moser puts it – drinking, drugs, etc. – he has also learned to be a mentor, talking to the younger Rams about just how rewarding high school hockey can be.
“I tell them, ‘cherish every day you’ve got here, because it goes fast,’ ” said Moser, who would like to be a principal or school administrator one day, should hockey not become his path.
Moser is a third-generation Ram. Both his uncle and grandfather suited up in the Green and White, and while ‘Dusty’ already has a state championship under his belt, he’s itching for a swan song in his senior year.
“We talk about repeating,” Moser revealed. “But we know it will be hard. We try not to let it go to our heads.”
In the meantime, Moser can walk the halls of Roseau High with his head held high; he is, after all, the captain of the hockey team and that’s a pretty sweet responsibility to have.
“It feels good,” he said.
Click HERE to read last week’s Year of the Ram story.
The Hockey News will be following the Roseau Rams high school hockey team every week, chronicling its journey on the road back to the state championship and providing an inside look at what its like to be a teenager on one of the most fabled varsity teams in America.
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