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Bemidji senior Eric Hernesman notched the first goal of evening against River Lakes in the first period of the Section 8AA hockey quarterfinal Tuesday at the Bemidji Community Arena. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Bemidji boys hockey team beats River Lakes in section playoffs

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When the Bemidji boys hockey team hit the ice Tuesday in the quarterfinal round of the Section 8-2A tournament at the Bemidji Community Arena the Lumberjacks wanted to show themselves and show River Lakes that they were ready for the postseason.

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"We have guys who can scoot around on the ice and I figured if we could get the first goal it would put everybody at ease. And we got that goal," said BHS coach Wade Chiodo.

Eric Hernesman contributed that goal 6:13 into the action and BHS never looked back. When the final horn sounded the Jacks had a relatively easy 6-0 victory over the seventh-seeded Stars and a date with No. 3 Brainerd in Saturdays' semifinals at the Community Arena.

The semifinal was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. but both coaches have agreed to move the game to 3 p.m. so as not to conflict with Bemidji State's game at the Sanford Center against Wisconsin.

Tuesday in the quarterfinals Brainerd downed St. Cloud Tech 4-1. During the regular season BHS defeated the Warriors 5-2 in Brainerd.

Tuesday's upper-bracket quarterfinals saw No. 1 Moorhead blast No. 8 Monticello 8-2 and No. 4 Roseau topple No. 5 Buffalo 6-1. In Saturday's other semifinal Roseau will travel to Moorhehad.

Once Bemidji had the first goal Tuesday River Lakes was in trouble. BHS constantly was on the attack and the Stars provided little resistance.

"We wanted to use Tuesday's game to get ready for the next couple of games," Hernesman said. "I thought the goal helped us start off with a faster than usual pace and I think it sparked us."

As was the case with many of Bemidji's goals Tuesday night, a Lumberjack did the grunt work to force a turnover that the Jacks would transform into a goal.

On Hernesman's first goal Brett Isensee battled behind the River Lakes net to gain possession and centered a pass toward the crease which bounced off goaltender Chris Skluzacek. The puck landed in the crease and Hernesman was in position to whack it home.

"There was a lot of grinding in the corners," Hernesman said. "We usually play our best when we want the puck on our stick like we did (Tuesday)."

"Before the game I could tell that the kids were ready to go," Chiodo said. "We played with more emotion. The first few shifts set the tone and we went on from there."

The Lumberjacks continued their dominance the rest of the way period, outshooting the Stars 18-6, and 12:23 into the stanza Matt Serratore provided a 2-0 cushion when he fended off two River Lakes checkers and centered a puck toward the net. The puck hit traffic in the slot, bounced past Skluzacek and BHS was on top 2-0.

Bemidji continued to apply the pressure in the middle stanza and the effort was rewarded with two more goals.

Hernesman collected his second of the night at 3:43 when he raced out of the Bemidji zone, took a perfect tape-to-tape pass from Serratore, deked past the defender and slipped a shot past Skluzacek.

Late in the period Jordan Heller swatted home a rebound from close range and the Lumberjacks enjoyed a 4-0 advantage after 34 minutes.

Bemidji's attack also produced a pair of goals in the final stanza as Heller notched his second of the game at 1:51 and Easton Halbert capped the scoring at 12:40.

"It's nice scoring two goals in each period," Hernesman said. "That shows that we didn't just play one or two good periods. We played well the entire game."

BHS goalie Gabe Heifort did not face many difficult shots but he passed every test. Heifort stopped 17 shots on way to his shutout.

If Bemidji wants to defeat Brainerd Saturday and advance to the section final on Feb. 29 it will have to duplicate Tuesday's performance.

"I was very happy with the effort," Chiodo said. "Because of that effort we have Step 1 out of the way. And now we have to prepare for Step 2."

River Lakes 0 0 0 - 0

Bemidji 2 2 2 - 6

First period - 1, Bemidji, Hernesman (Isensee, Sauer) 6:13. 2, Bemidji, Serratore (unassisted) 12:23

Second period - 3, Bemidji, Hernesman (Serratore, Borowski) 3:43. 4, Bemidji, Heller (Spencer, Forseth) 15:37

Third period - 5, Bemidji, Heller (Serratore, Sauer) 1:51. 6, Bemidji, Halbert (Spencer, Burns) 12:40

Shots - River Lakes 5-6-6-17; Bemidji 18-9-12-39

Saves - River Lakes, Skluzacek 27 shots-23 saves, River Lakes, Speldric 12 shots-10 saves; Bemidji, Heifort 17 shots-17 saves

Penalties - River Lakes 6 for 12 minutes; Bemidji 5 for 13 minutes

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Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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