BEMIDJI – The first game of a season is filled with unknowns and Bemidji boys hockey coach Wade Chiodo wasn’t exactly sure what he would see when the Lumberjacks hosted Grand Rapids Tuesday at the Community Arena.
After the 5-0 loss to the Thunderhawks, Chiodo and his players discovered that there is plenty of room for improvement.
“There are always positives and negatives in the early games and I did see some good things,” Chiodo said. “But I also saw aspects of the game that we need to work on.”
Among the latter is the power play. Late in the first period Grand Rapids forward Cody Mann was called for a 5-minute boarding major. That penalty carried into the second period and, when Thunderhawks center Patrick Rajala was called for a trip 3:37 into the middle period, BHS had a two-man advantage for 1:11.
Despite 5:49 of power play time, including the 1:11 with the 5-on-3 advantage, Bemidji managed only two shots on net. Shortly after the penalties expired, Lumberjacks center Matt Serratore was called for a high stick and Grand Rapids scored the game’s first goal during its power play.
The visitors added another goal in the second stanza and they rammed home three more in the final 17 minutes to post the victory.
“Not scoring on the 5-minute major was a pivotal point of the game,” Chiodo said. “During the major you shuffle your lines trying to get the defense tired. We needed a spark but it never came and we couldn’t capitalize on our opportunity.”
Grand Rapids was the better team on the ice Tuesday and the Lumberjacks had trouble generating any attack.
During the first period the Thunderhawks outshot the Jacks 14-2 and the only reason the game was scoreless heading into the second stanza was the work of BHS goalie Gabe Heifort.
Grand Rapids peppered the Bemidji net during the period but Heifort stood his ground.
The trend continued in the second session as Heifort made 14 more saves but the sophomore was beaten by a pair of power play goals.
In the third period Bemidji, which is battling nagging injuries that kept players out of Tuesday’s lineup, struggled to find its legs and the Thunderhawks took advantage of their territorial edge to beat Heifort three times on 18 shots.
“Gabe is solid and does a heck of a job in the net,” Chiodo said. “I know that Gabe will be able to keep us in games throughout the season.
“But we ran out of gas in the third period,” the coach continued. “I think getting fully healthy and having everybody back in the lineup will make a difference.”
The Lumberjacks will take their first road trip Thursday when they travel to St. Cloud Apollo. The next home appearance will be Dec. 4 at the Community Arena against East Grand Forks.
Grand Rapids 0 2 3 - 5
Bemidji 0 0 0 - 0
First period – No scoring
Second period – 1, GR, Simonson (Peterson, Shepard) 8:00 PP. 2, GR, Mann (Holum, Simonson) 16:03 PP
Third period – 3, GR, Mann (Simonson, Peterson) 0:24. 4, GR, Peterson (unassisted) 6:36. 5, GR, Frazier (Mishcke, Rajala) 14:22 4-on-4
Shots – Grand Rapids 14-16-18-48; Bemidji 2-6-6-14
Saves – GR, Shepard 14-14; BHS, Heifort, 43-48
Penalties/minutes – Grand Rapids 5/13; Bemidji 3/6