BEMIDJI – When Bemidji and Moorhead meet on the ice, there’s only one rule: Expect the unexpected.
Just seconds after Moorhead went on a 5-on-3 power play, Bemidji’s Matt Serratore tied the game on a shorthanded penalty-shot goal with just under two minutes to play in regulation.
Serratore’s tally – his third goal of the evening – helped the Lumberjacks force overtime, and the longtime rivals skated to a 4-4 tie Saturday afternoon at Bemidji Community Arena. It’s the fifth time in the last six games that the two Section 8AA rivals have gone to overtime.
“Obviously when they’re on a 5 on 3 your chances are going to be pretty limited,” BHS head coach Wade Chiodo said. “We just got a fortunate bounce and we had the right guy. Matt Serratore got a breakaway, and you know what, if you ask for a perfect scenario when you’re killing a 5 on 3, that’s it. It’s something you can’t really draw up.”
The Spuds (10-10-2) had taken a 4-3 lead minutes earlier, when Aaron Herdt scored the second of his two goals with a great deke move past Bemidji’s Gabe Heifort.
Then the Lumberjacks (7-14-2) were whistled for two quick penalties – Sam Bruestle for interference at 14:19 and Noah Burns for tripping at 14:14.
With the timing of the penalties, it looked like the Lumberjacks had shot themselves in the foot. Even if they had killed both, it only would have given them about 30 seconds to work with to force the equalizer.
But Serratore made sure they didn’t need a buzzer-beater with his goal at 15:05.
The senior forced a turnover just seconds after Burns went to the box and took it in on a breakaway. Moorhead’s Patrick O’Connor did the only thing he could to keep Serratore from scoring on the break – trip him from behind at the last second.
The referee immediately raised his hand for a penalty shot, giving Serratore a chance to beat Spuds’ goaltender Jacob Dittmer one-on-one.
“I was a little nervous,” Serratore said. “But I figured I kinda knew what I wanted to. I wanted to fake a shot and find the five hole and it worked perfectly. It was the best feeling.”
Especially against archrivals Moorhead.
“These games with Moorhead are always at another level,” Serratore said. “I think since my sophomore year they’ve all been one-goal games. They’re just wars.”
Moorhead head coach Peter Cullen knew there wasn’t a lot they could do to shut down Serratore.
“He’s a great player,” Cullen said of Serratore. “We don’t usually key on one guy. Were deep enough that we should be able to handle a team like that no matter what line is out. But he’s a special player. Special players make great plays at great times and that was one of them.”
Serratore had scored twice in the first period to give the Jacks a 2-0 cushion: One a redirect of a Mike Sauer shot and the other a shorthanded tally. Will Borgen scored later in the period to make it 2-1.
Zach Posner opened the second period with a goal to make it 3-1, but the Spuds scored three unanswered goals (two from Herdt and one from O’Connor) to take the lead before the 5-on-3.
Despite getting the equalizer, the Lumberjacks still had to kill the bulk of the Spuds’ 5-on-3 power play.
The Spuds had some good looks on BHS goalie Heifort but couldn’t beat him, forcing overtime.
“That 5-on-3 was key for us,” Cullen said. “If you can’t bury your power play chances at a very crucial time of the game it comes back to bite you.”
Each team had three shots apiece in the extra frame.
The Spuds outshot the Lumberjacks 38-28 in the game; Heifort stopped 34 shots and Dittmer 25.
“This tie really helps us,” Chiodo said. “Moorhead’s only got one section loss at this point, so they may be the top seed, but we needed this one. It helps us in the sense of seedings. You never can predict what’s going to happen.”
Each team has one Section 8AA game remaining. The Lumberjacks, now 4-4-1 in section games, travel to Brainerd-Pillager-Pierz Tuesday, while the Spuds, now 5-1-1, travel to St. Cloud Tech.
Moorhead 1 1 2 0 – 4
Bemidji 2 1 1 0 – 4
First Period – 1, BHS, Serratore (Fitzgerald, Sauer), 4:12; 2, BHS, Serratore (Unassisted), 5:40, SH; 3, Moor, Borgen (Unassisted), 13:08.
Second Period – 4, BHS, Posner (Unassisted), 3:44; 5, Moor, Herdt (Unassisted), 5:15, SH.
Third Period – 6, Moor, O’Connor (Holtgrewe, Herdt), 2:35; 7, Moor, Herdt (Unassisted), 13:35; 8, BHS, Serratore (Unassisted), 15:05, Penalty Shot.
Overtime – No Scoring.
Shots On Goal – Moor (9-13-13-3-38); BHS (9-11-5-3-28).
Goalies – Moor, Dittmer (28-25); BHS, Heifort, (38-34).
Penalties-Minutes – Moorhead, 4-8; Bemidji 6-12.
Power Plays – Moorhead 0-for-6; Bemidji 0-for-4.