Hockey Day In Bemidji got off to a successful start Saturday as the girls high school team disposed of Alexandria 4-2 at the Nymore rink.
"Alexandria did everything it had to do to stay in the game," said Bemidji coach Matt Menne. "Alexandria's goalie played a great game and they made things tough for us. But we never gave up. We played hard. You could tell that our kids came to work today."
After taking a 2-1 lead in the opening period the Lumberjacks tallied a key goal 12 seconds into the second stanza. The visitors answered that score late in the middle period but Bemidji's pressure paid dividends six minutes into the final session when Emily Larson scored the important insurance goal.
"The game was pretty much over after Emily's goal," Menne said. "Alexandria had every right to jump back into the game in the third period but you could see that Alexandria was down after the goal. Alexandria still played hard but they didn't create anything positive."
Larson's tally was unassisted as the defenseman pounced on a loose puck at the Alexandria blue line, skated around a defender and whistled a wrister over the goalie's shoulder for her sixth goal of the season.
"Emily jumped into the play from her defensive position and that is something she has done all year," Menne said. "We had strong defensive play in the offensive zone from everyone Saturday. I thought our point play was great. This was the kind of performance I was hoping to see from everyone."
The Lumberjacks held a decisive upper hand in territorial play from the outset and that pressure resulted in a 2-0 lead early in the contest. At the 6:37 mark Allison Lapp opened the scoring when she converted a perfect feed from Shelby Sauer on a 2-on-1 break. Sauer skated into the Cardinals zone on the left side and flipped a pass to Lapp who was cruising into the zone at the right circle and Lapp's quick shot beat Alexandria goaltender Lindsey Lien.
Less than two minutes later the Jacks struck again as Sauer found Annie Swartz with a pass at the left circle and Swartz ripped a quick shot on net. Lien made the initial save but had no chance on the rebound as Chaniel Nelson banged it home before Lien could react.
The visitors drew within 2-1 with 4:34 to play in the period but Bemidji countered that marker very quickly in the second stanza.
Janie Johnson won the faceoff to open the middle session and Becca Gregg found Swartz open at the point. Swartz ripped a shot on the net and Casey Miller batted home the rebound.
"We got that early one in the second, jumped out to the 3-1 lead and had the momentum most of that period," Menne said. "But then we gave up a power-play goal late in the period and the momentum shifted."
Kalley Kragenbring notched the power-play tally with 1:43 remaining in the middle period to draw the Cardinals within striking distance at 3-2. Bemidji was whistled for another penalty with 10 seconds remaining in the stanza and was forced to play shorthanded for the first 1:50 of the final period.
"The key was to score first in the third period," Menne said. "Whichever team did that would have the advantage."
BHS killed the penalty without allowing a shot on net and eventually took complete control with Larson's goal.
"This was the kind of performance I was hoping we would have," the coach said. "Offensively we had 41 shots on net despite having to kill four penalties. Overall, I think this was a nice all-aroundgame for us."
Maria Thompson finished with 17 saves in the Lumberjacks net while Lien stopped 37 shots.
The victory improved Bemidji's record to 17-4-1 while Alexandria fell to 11-9-2. The Jacks head to Roseau Thursday and entertain Cloquet-Esko-Carlton on Friday. The Jan. 23 game against Brainerd which was a weather victim is tentatively re-scheduled for Feb. 9 in Brainerd. If it appears likely that Bemidji and Brainerd would meet in the first round of the section tournament, however, the Feb. 9 game will not be played.
NOTE: A fan bus to Roseau for Thursday's game will depart from the high school at 4 p.m. Anyone wishing to take the fan bus may contact Jon Hunt at 987-2323.
Alexandria 1 1 0 - 2
Bemidji 2 1 1 - 4
B-Lapp 12 (Sauer, Larson) 6:37; B-Nelson 9 (Swartz, Sauer) 8:25; A-Anez (Q.Kragenbring) 12:26. Penalties: B-A.Hunt (trip) 3:49; A-K.Kragenbring (trip) 8:28.
B-Miller 8 (Swartz, Gregg) 0:12; A-K.Kragenbring (Anez) 15:17 PP. Penalties: B-A.Hunt (check) 9:22; B-Johnson (check) 14:17; B-Johnson (check) 16:50.
B-Larson 6 (unassisted) 5:48. Penalties: None.
Lien (A) 11 15 11 - 37
Thompson (B) 5 6 6 - 17