BEMIDJI – All season Bemidji girls hockey coach Bob Brink has been preaching that his players need to play solid hockey for three periods in order for them to be successful.
Thursday at the Sanford Center the Lumberjacks took Brink’s words to heart and the result was a 3-1 victory over Thief River Falls.
On paper Thursday’s win was a huge upset as the Prowlers came to town with a 12-4-1 record. The lone losses were to Warroad (4-2, 3-1), North Wright County (2-1) and Roseau (3-1).
BHS entered the showdown with a 5-6-5 mark but was 4-1-1 in its last six games.
Thursday, however, the Lumberjacks were the better team and Brink wasn’t surprised with the result.
“This team is capable of very good things and we are starting to play to our potential,” the coach said.
“Going back to the past few games we have played three solid periods each night and we have outworked our opponents. It’s taken a while for us to get to this point but now we are there and it is fun to watch.”
BHS dominated the play during the first period of Thursday’s contest but neither team could find the scoreboard. The Lumberjacks also outshot Thief River Falls 8-4 and frustrated the Prowlers to the point of coaxing them into taking two penalties.
Bemidji did not score on the man-advantage situations but the penalties did help the Jacks control the play.
The second period was a defensive battle and the teams combined for only seven shots. Late in the stanza the Lumberjacks were whistled for a checking penalty and TRF made the most of its power play.
Madison Poole grabbed the rebound of a shot that had been stopped by traffic and scored form between the circles with a waist-high wrister.
The goal came with only 31 seconds to play in the session and the visitors had the momentum after two periods.
Bemidji, however, took charge in the final period. Less than a minute into the stanza Megan Dondelinger tested Prowler goalie Frances Marshall with a shot from the crease. The goalie made the save but the Prowlers were forced to ice the puck to relieve the pressure.
BHS continued its attack and the extra work paid dividends at the 5:14 mark when Mackenzie Hietala beat Marshall inside the right post with a wrister from the circles.
“The girls were moving their feet and for us to be competitive we have to stay on the move,” Brink said. “Defensively we played very well but the recipe for our success is outworking the other team. And that’s what we did Thursday.”
Savanna Hanson was among the Jacks who had that extra step. With 7:23 remaining in the game the junior notched the eventual game-winner when she stole the puck from a Prowler at the TRF blue line, skated into the offensive zone, continued to the net and slammed the puck past Marshall.
BHS did not play a perfect game, however, but when a mistake was made goalie Leighton Rockensock came to the rescue.
Her best stop came with 4:30 to go in regulation when the freshman denied Morgan Martell who had a clean breakaway after stealing a Lumberjack pass.
That play proved to be Thief River Falls’ final threat. The visitors pulled Marshall with 1:10 to play and 30 seconds later Karleigh Wolkerstorfer iced the win when she intercepted a clearing attempt and rifled a shot into the open net.
“I can see that the girls are getting comfortable with what they are doing,” Brink said. “They are performing at a high level and our job now is to keep this up for another three weeks.”
Bemidji will continue its homestand 2 p.m. Saturday when it hosts River Lakes at the Sanford Center.
Thief River Falls 0 1 0 - 1
Bemidji 0 1 2 - 3
First period – No scoring
Second period – 1, TRF, Poole (Norin, Torkelson) 16:29 PP
Third period – 2, BHS, Hietala (Pogue, Wolkerstorfer) 5:14. 3, BHS, Hanson (Holm) 9:37. 4, BHS, Wolkerstorfer (unassisted) 16:24 EN
Shots – TRF 4-5-8-17; BHS 8-2-13-23
Saves – TRF, Marshall 20/22; BHS, Rockensock 16/17
Penalties/minutes: TRF 4/8; BHS 2/4