The way River Lakes played through two periods, a one-goal deficit with 17 minutes to work with seemed like enough to get a win and move on in the girls hockey playoffs.
But the third period didn’t work out the way the Stars imagined as Moorhead scored five third-period goals to win 7-2 in the Section 8-2A semifinals Tuesday at River Lakes Civic Arena.
“We felt like we had it,” said River Lakes captain Rachael Prozinski. “The third period is usually when we play our best.”
The Stars outshot the Spuds 28-18 through two periods, but turnovers and penalties played a large factor in the third-period collapse for sixth-seeded River Lakes.
Seventh-seeded Moorhead moves on to face top seed North Wright County in the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday at Bernick’s Arena in Sartell. NWC beat Bemidji 3-0 Tuesday.
Tuesday was the Stars’ first appearance in a section semifinal since 2008, coming off a 2-1 upset of No. 3 Sartell/Sauk Rapids in four overtimes Saturday.
“That game might have taken a little out of us, but the players never quit,” said Stars coach Blair Hovel, who completed his first season behind the River Lakes bench.
Moorhead wasted no time taking a 2-0 lead on four shots early in the first period.
Jenna Ulberg put the Spuds on the board 2:07 into the game when she created a turnover and took the puck to the slot and scored on a wrist shot.
Kristin Dreschel gave Moorhead a two-goal lead when she buried a rebound 5:34 later. The River Lakes offense remained in sleep mode until Hovel called a timeout after Dreschel’s goal.
“I told (the players) to relax,” Hovel said. “There’s a lot of time left. We can play with (Moorhead). We’re better than them.”
The Stars recorded their first shot of the game 57 seconds later and went on their first of three power plays in the first period a few minutes after that.
Though River Lakes didn’t score with the advantage, it helped the Stars finally sustain some pressure in the offensive zone, outshooting Moorhead 13-1 from the second Spuds goal to the end of the period.
“We were controlling play and getting chances,” Hovel said. “We took a timeout and we responded. We started playing well.”
Allie Stanger got the puck to the left of the Spuds goal and slid it between Moorhead goaltender Brianna Storms’ pads on the power play at 1:40 of the second period.
The Spuds led 2-1 going into the third period.
“We talked in the locker room about playing the next 17 minutes for another 51 minutes on Friday,” said Moorhead coach Kaylee Black. “If you play with that concept in the back of your head, you guarantee yourself another game.”
The Stars got another play early in the third but Ulberg stole the puck at the blueline and took it the length of the ice for a shorthanded goal to make it 3-1 Moorhead.
River Lakes took just less than three minutes to answer (at 4:51) when Sydney Caron took a pass from Prozinski and floated the puck from the point toward the goal and made it past Storms.
Both River Lakes goals were on the power play, on which the Stars were 2-for-6.
That’s as close as the Stars got .
Moorhead scored two goals separated by 1:16 and added a pair of late power play goals.
Clark finished with 17 saves for the Stars (11-12-4 overall).
River Lakes had a 37-26 shots-on-goal advantage.
“The first period, we were alright, the second period we dominated and (Moorhead) got some good breaks in the third period,” Prozinski said. “We were all jacked after the win at Sartell and we came in ready to play but we didn’t have enough.”