BOYS HOCKEY: "Playoff mentality" lifts Bemidji over River Lakes
BEMIDJI — After Thursday’s disappointing performance in a 6-0 loss at Roseau, Bemidji boys hockey coach Wade Chiodo told his players that the Lumberjacks had entered a new phase in their season.
With no more margin for error, every game and every shift within that game is important and the Jacks must change their approach to their final six regular season games.
“I told the kids that we have begun our playoffs,” Chiodo said. “I told them that Saturday’s game against River Lakes was a playoff game and that we have to look at all of our remaining games with that mentality.”
Saturday at the Community Arena the Lumberjacks took those words to heart and the result was a dominating 5-2 victory. Bemidji’s offense could not be slowed and only a 47-save performance by Stars goaltender Trevor Meed prevented the outcome from becoming more one-sided.
“Their goalie played very well and he had to because we were hungry,” Chiodo said. “The guys kept going to the net hard with their sticks down and that is what a coach wants to see. Anytime there is a shot you have to crash the net. We did that on Saturday and we were rewarded.”
A sign of how the game would progress came early as the Lumberjacks scored only 1:15 into the action.
Bemidji’s line of Nick Leitner, Jack Johnson and Rocky Copiskey controlled play in the offensive zone and Johnson eventually ripped a shot from the top of the right circle. Meed made the save but Copiskey pounced on the rebound between the circles and his quick release beat Meed before he could react.
The Lumberjacks continued to apply the pressure and only Meed kept the Stars within shouting distance. During a power play midway through the stanza BHS managed five shots on net but the River Lakes goalie held his ground.
A few minutes later Bemidji was called for an elbow penalty and the Stars needed only eight seconds to tie the game at 1-1.
The Jacks scored a key goal with 1:22 remaining in the period, however, when they zipped the puck around the offensive zone and eventually found Erik Fitzgerald alone at the blue line slot. Fitzgerald’s first bullet just missed the net but 10 seconds later he had another opportunity from the same spot. And this time his aim was true and BHS had a 2-1 lead.
The Lumberjacks outshot the Stars 18-6 in the period and the trend continued in the middle stanza as the home team owned a 16-9 edge.
A pair of Bemidji’s shots found their mark as Jake Leitner scored 1:22 into the stanza and Nick Leitner tallied at 9:23 while BHS enjoyed a 5-on-3 advantage.
River Lakes found itself with a 5-on-3 opportunity three minutes later and the Stars made the most of the chance, scoring only five seconds into the situation.
Bemidji maintained its 4-2 lead the rest of the period and midway through the final session the Jacks notched the insurance goal when Josh Lusby worked his way to the crease and converted Brett Isensee’s backhand feed.
“Our puck movement was very good,” Chiodo said. “Every time you hit the ice you need to headman the puck to create space for yourself and your teammates. And we did that very well on Saturday.
“We were buzzing from start to finish,” the coach added. “The kids were hungry and that hunger showed.”
The Lumberjacks return home 7:30 p.m. Monday when they entertain East Grand Forks in a make-up contest. They will also be home Thursday against Warroad.
Bemidji 5, River Lakes 2
River Lakes 1 1 0 - 2
Bemidji 2 2 1 - 5
First period - 1, Bem, Copiskey (Johnson, N.Leitner) 1:15. 2, RL, Beitz (Parsons, Prozinski) 11:01 PP. 3, Bem, Fitzgerald (Posner) 15:38
Second period - 4, Bem, J.Leitner, (Copiskey) 1:22. 5, N.Leitner (Johnson, Carlson) 9:23 5-on-3 PP. 6, RL, Zimmer (Thompson, Prozinski) 12:20 5-on-3 PP
Third period - 7, Bem, Lusby (Forseth, Isensee) 7:27 PP
Saves - Meed (RL) 16-14-17-47; Tharaldson (Bem) 5-8-7-20
Penalties/minutes: River Lakes 6/12; Bemidji 7/14