BEMIDJI – Before the start of the season Bemidji girls hockey coach Bob Brink felt that the Lumberjacks had the potential to reach the state tournament and do well and make some noise when they got to St. Paul. Following a 0-5-4 start, however, that prediction appeared to be an overestimation.
“Some people may have believed that,” Brink said. “But during the past four games we have been able to play the style that we want to play. We like to open the game and utilize our speed. “When we do that we can be successful.”
Bemidji employed that style Saturday against Brainerd-Little Falls at the Community Arena and the tactic worked to perfection as the Jacks blanked the Flying Warriors 6-0 for their fourth consecutive victory.
“The girls realize their potential and are working toward that potential,” Brink said. “I don’t think the girls’ confidence ever waivered during the 0-5-4 start. We weren’t playing badly. It was more a matter of playing against some very tough teams and learning as we went.
“But now we are settling into our own.”
Since entering the victory column Dec. 11 with a 5-4 overtime win at Crookston, Bemidji has not been tested. Since that victory the Lumberjacks have hammered International Falls 9-1, blistered Detroit Lakes 7-1 and blanked Brainerd-Little Falls. Their next test will be Jan. 5 at Fergus Falls.
“Our confidence has been snowballing and I believe we will be a team our opponents will have to be concerned about at the end of the year,” Brink said.
The visitors stayed with Bemidji during the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s contest but the Lumberjacks started to take complete control late in the stanza.
With 5:40 to play in the period BHS opened the scoring when Megan Dondelinger camped outside the right post and poked home a rebound of Erin Booth’s shot from the other side of the crease. The goal was the sophomore’s first as a varsity player.
Less than two minutes later the Jacks struck again when Karlee Tower skated to the right circle and beat Wennerstrand with a backhander.
Bemidji outshot the Flying Warriors 10-5 in the period.
“We came away from the first period with a 2-0 lead but I didn’t think we played with tenacity and intensity,” Brink said. “But the girls came back with a better overall effort in the second period. They played with more emotion and they carried that style of play the rest of the way.”
The home team put two more pucks behind Wennerstrand in the middle session as Allie Heifort connected at 11:44 and Rachael Hanson tallied at 15:28. Booth set up Heifort as Heifort skated to the slot between the circles and Booth hit her defenseman with a perfect feed.
Tower had a hand in Hanson’s goal as Tower slid a pass from the right circle to Hanson at the left circle and Hanson zipped a wrister into the net.
Karleigh Wolkerstorfer scored both of Bemidji’s third-period goals. Early in the stanza she carried into the Brainerd-Little Falls zone, skated to the left circle and beat Wennerstrand inside the left pipe.
Midway through the period she teamed with Booth for a shorthanded goal. Booth did most of the work as she gained control, skated behind the net and fed Wolkerstorfer who was camped in the slot just outside the crease.
“We have some big scorers who dominate offensively but they don’t get those opportunities without our muckers,” Brink said. “For us to be successful we need our muckers. We need every girl to step up and play hard.
“And that’s what we’ve been getting this season.”
BHS goaltender Morgan Miller tossed her shutout with a 17-save performance. Wennerstrand allowed the six goals on 33 shots.
Brainerd-LF 0 0 0 - 0
Bemidji 2 2 2 - 6
First period: 1, Bem, Dondelinger (Booth) 11:20. 2, Bem, Tower (Holm, Isaacsson) 12:56
Second period: 3, Bem, Heifort (Wolkerstofer, Booth) 11:44. 4, Bem, Hanson (Tower) 15:28
Third period: 5, Bem, Wolkerstorfer (unassisted) 1:17. 6, Bem, Wolkerstorfer (Booth) 8:21 SH
Shots: B-LF 5-7-5-17; Bemidji 10-14-9-33
Saves: B-LF, Wennerstrand, 27-33; Bemidji, Miller, 17-17
Penalties/minutes: B-LF 3/6; Bemidji 4/8