BHS hockey coaches recount the Jacks-St. Cloud Tech playoff classic
Instead of counting sheep Tuesday night, Bemidji High School boys hockey coach Wade Chiodo tried to recall the key moments of his team's epic 3-2 six-overtime loss to St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-2A quarterfinals at Nymore Arena.
"I tried to recap the game in my mind," Chiodo said, "but so many things happened that every memory was fuzzy."
It would be impossible to recall every save, every pipe or every odd-man rush, because the teams played two seconds short of 112 minutes. The game also featured 118 saves, including 58 by Bemidji netminder Axel Osborn.
Tuesday's outing reminded some veteran area hockey fans of an eight-overtime classic between Grand Forks Central and Grand Forks Red River for the 1977 North Dakota state championship. That game was officially declared a 1-1 tie and both teams were awarded the state crown.
The Bemidji-Tech contest was similar and a fitting ending would have been a tie. But in the section playoffs, a tie is not an option.
Max Hazelton forced overtime when he rifled a high wrist shot past Tech goalie Allen Patten with 2:45 remaining in regulation. Although no one knew it at the time, that goal would set the stage for a battle that would last long into the night.
"The kids were emotionally and physically drained at the end," Chiodo said. "There were two even teams battling it out. Did I expect six overtimes? No, but I knew it would be tight all the way to the end."
To the credit of both teams, the level of play and the effort of the individuals did not diminish as the overtimes continued. In fact, the pace of the action was as fast at the end as it was in the beginning.
"The kids stayed focused," Chiodo said. "They played extremely hard. And it was a tough way to see the season end."
Tech eventually prevailed when Ryan Heaton skated to the slot and tipped a centering pass from Alex Kennedy past Osborn. When the red light flashed the Tech players jumped into each other's arms while the Bemidji athletes fell to the ice in agony.
"We were a little shell-shocked," Chiodo said. "I was very proud of how the kids battled to the end. We just didn't get the breaks on that last play."
"Any one of a number of plays earlier in the game could have gone either way and could have decided the outcome," said BHS assistant coach John Wangberg. "The difference was that this shot went in and all of the others didn't."
The home team struck first, 9:44 into the opening stanza, when Jesse Nemgar and Jordan Heller set up John Forseth for a snap shot following a faceoff in the Tech zone. The Tigers countered with two unanswered goals in the second period, however, as Brandon Reinholz connected at 2:24 and Heaton found the net 10 minutes later.
Defense carried the play in the third session and it appeared that Tech's one-goal lead would stand. Hazelton, however, came through with 2:45 to play as his wrister from the left circle whizzed past Patten.
"Overtime was a roller-coaster ride," Chiodo said. "The players were running on their sixth or seventh tank of gas at the end."
Osborn was outstanding in the extra sessions, as was his counterpart. The BHS senior had 33 saves in the overtimes, many bordering on sensational.
"Alex played very, very well," Chiodo said. "He stood tall. He stopped shots from the goal mouth. He stopped breakaways. He stopped tips. Alex stopped everything. I don't know how many chances both teams had, but it was pretty amazing how long the game lasted and how hard both teams played.
"The difference was that on the last play Tech finished and we didn't."
Tuesday's game ended the careers of nine seniors, athletes who, according to Chiodo, always played Lumberjack hockey.
"I am very proud of these seniors," the coach said. "I am proud of the dedication they have always given to the program. I want to publicly say 'thanks' for all they have done for Bemidji hockey."
The seniors are Rylee Curb, Kevin Larson, Lucas Phillips, Luke Burns, Nemgar, Matt Hietala, Mike Rees, Joseph Welle and Osborn.
"It was a heartbreaking way to end the season, but the kids laid it all on the line and that is all a coach can ask for," Wangberg said. "One thing is certain, when they come back for the class reunions they will have something to talk about."
SC Tech 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 3
Bemidji 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 2
First period: 1, B-Forseth (J. Heller, Nemgar) 9:44. Penalties: B-Larson (crosschecking) 3:16; SCT-Orthaus (interference) 11:38; B-S.Heller (interference) 14:37.
Second period: 2, SCT-Reinholz (unassisted) 2:24; 3, SCT-Heaton (Reinholz) 12:44). Penalties: SCT-Coulter (interference) 7:28; B-Bench (too many men) 10:20; B-J. Heller (roughing) 13:45; SCT-Anderson (roughing) 13:45; B-Phillips (crosschecking) 14:18; SCT-Vogel (interferncee) 15:42; B-Bench (too many men) 16:25.
Third period: 4, B-Hazelton (Bitter, S. Heller) 14:15. Penalties: SCT-Kennedy (interference) 2:43.
First Overtime: No scoring. Penalties: None.
Second Overtime: No scoring. Penalties: None.
Third Overtime: No scoring. Penalties: None.
Fourth Overtime: No scoring. Penalties: B-S. Heller (roughing) 8:59; SCT-Coulter (roughing) 8:59; B-Nemgar (roughing) 13:53; B-J. Heller (roughing) 13:53; SCT-Kennedy (roughing) 13:53; SCT-Reinholz (roughing) 13:53.
Fifth Overtime: No scoring. Penalty: B-Bitter (hook) 2:09.
Sixth Overtime: SCT-Heaton (Kennedy) 2:58. Penalties: None.
Patten (STC)12 12 4 3 12 6 7 3 1 - 60
Osborn (B) 8 12 5 6 8 3 7 6 3 - 58