Injuries force Moose Lake to forfeit first-round playoff gameAfter finishing its regular season with a record of 0-25-0, the Rebels forfeited their first-round Section 5A playoff game to Sauk Rapids on Tuesday night.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Winston Churchill once said, “I am always willing to learn, but I do not always like being taught.”
The Moose Lake Area boys hockey team can probably understand the meaning behind Churchill’s words. After finishing its regular season with a record of 0-25-0, the Rebels forfeited their first-round Section 5A playoff game to Sauk Rapids on Tuesday night.
Injuries had left the young Rebels with just 11 experienced skaters and no experienced goaltender.
“It was a district and parent decision to forfeit the game,” first-year Coach Trevor Howe said. “With the injuries we had, we were down to 15 skaters overall with four of them in their first year of hockey.”
Perhaps the most damaging injury was to junior goaltender Gage Mohelsky, who finally succumbed to a knee injury that had hurt him for much of the season.
“Gage is a strong asset and a leader on the team,” Howe said. “Having a veteran goaltender with experience is huge and he held us in games for a lot of nights. With a young team like ours, he faced more shots.”
“[Mohelsky] had a recurring injury,” Howe added. “It started with a strain, and eventually led to a torn meniscus and the doctors said if the swelling didn’t go down he’d need surgery. Popping up and down in pads 70-80 times a game provides some strain and the new rules allowing players into the goal crease didn’t help in terms of physical action in front of our net.”
A 20-1 loss at Eveleth-Gilbert on Feb. 12 with Mohelsky out of the lineup and no experienced backup brought the junior back into the nets for one more game, a home loss to North Shore in the next-to-last game of the season.
Andrew Lafond and Tyler Hoffman split the goaltending duties in the team’s last game of the season, a 10-1 loss against Greenway. For the year, despite a goals-against-average of 9.70, Mohelsky faced an average of 59 shots on goal per game for a team that was outscored 253-16 for the season.
Mohelsky’s wasn’t the only injury woe for the Rebels, though. Senior forward Zach Treirweiller was knocked out of the lineup with a head injury, and with sophomore forward Gabe Douglas lost to knee surgery and freshman defenseman Joey Whited out with a broken wrist, the injury to Mohelsky was the last straw.
“We were at 15 skaters with four in their first year of hockey,” Howe said. “We had seven or eight more skaters with three years or less of hockey. So we decided it was best to close down the season.”
Howe said the team’s troubles dated back to the flooding in June, and doubt as to whether Riverside Arena would be available for games after being inundated by four feet of flood waters.
“We lost five players who decided not to play this year,” he said. “We didn’t even know if our arena was going to be up and running. So we lost a few players to basketball this year. That was tough, not having some players come out.”
Last year’s Rebels went 12-15-0 and were led by graduate and state goal scoring champion Josh Cisar’s 64 goals. That’s four times as many as this year’s much younger Rebels scored as a team.
“We’ve had a decent team the last few years,” Howe said. “It is definitely a challenge to rebuild, but the players are up to it.”
That is leading to a spirit of optimism from Howe.
“Despite it all, the team was very positive,” he said. “We didn’t have a game where anyone gave up. The players put up their best effort. They want to play next year, which is great. We hope to pull in some skaters from other areas for next year and as a team the players want to pull together and develop. We have kids coming up from bantams who can help the high school program.”
Howe thanked volunteer goalie coach Russ Bohaty and assistants Chris Gamst and Corey Klavu, and volunteer assistant Noel Stay. He also has a goal for next year.
“I want to help this program grow,” he said. “The first win will be sweet.”