BEMIDJI – Before the first puck was dropped on the 2012-13 season Bemidji High School girls hockey coach Bob Brink believed his team had enough talent, leadership and experience to contend for a state championship.
Following Saturday’s 2-0 victory over St. Cloud in the Section 8-2A quarterfinals, the coach maintains that belief.
“The girls played very well. It was a fun game to watch,” Brink said. “They played the type of hockey that we’ve been wanting to play the past few months. We wanted to go out and control the things we could control. We wanted to move our feet and move the puck.
“That isn’t as simple a thing to do as it sounds but we were able to play that way on Saturday,” the coach added.
Bemidji’s reward for Saturday’s dominant victory is a trip to Monticello 7 p.m. today in the section semifinals. The fourth-seeded Lumberjacks (11-9-5) will take on No. 1 ranked North Wright County (21-4-1).
Today’s lower-bracket semifinal finds a pair of unlikely combatants as No. 7 Moorhead (8-16-1) will travel to No. 6 River Lakes (11-11-4).
Saturday’s quarterfinals in the upper bracket went according to plan as Bemidji eliminated St. Cloud and North Wright County thumped Brainerd-Little Falls 8-0.
In the lower bracket, however, upsets were the rule as Moorhead stunned No. 2 Roseau 3-2 in overtime and River Lakes surprised No. 3 Sartell 2-1 in four overtimes.
Today’s winners will battle for the Section 8-2A championship 7 p.m. Friday at a neutral site and, because of the quarterfinal upsets, the upper-bracket winner would be favored in the championship game.
Brink wasn’t surprised that the Lumberjacks were able to control the play in Saturday’s win.
“Before the game the girls admitted to having the butterflies and that was fun for me to know,” the coach said. “Having butterflies before the game told me the girls knew that this game was something special.”
The butterflies probably will return tonight and that would be fine with Brink.
“North Wright County is a very good team and it will take another solid game on our part to win,” the coach said. “North Wright County is similar to Roseau in that it plays an up-tempo game. They like to move the puck and have many scoring threats. We will have to be on our game defensively and, when we get an offensive opportunity, we will have to make the best of it.
“But we understand what we are up against and we know what we have to do,” Brink said. “We’ve been in games like this before and the girls are confident that they can play well.”
Among those who will play with confidence today is junior captain Hanna Olson.
“Tuesday’s game is going to be fun,” she said. “If we come into the game focused and ready to play from the first shift we know we can beat North Wright. We want to have our first line win the draw and take it right into the offensive zone.”
Karleigh Wolkerstorfer is a forward on the first line and she knows the importance of attacking from the first drop of the puck. The senior scored both goals in Saturday’s victory and leads the team with 29 goals and 41 points.
“When we played St. Cloud everybody was saying that the team that scores the first goal would win and we got that first goal,” she said. “We’re going to try to do that again Tuesday. It’s a much better feeling scoring that first goal because then you can concentrate on playing defense.”
Olson and Wolkerstorfer agree that defense will be the deciding factor today.
“We haven’t played North Wright this year but Roseau has and their goalie told me that to beat North Wright you really have to take care of the defensive zone,” Wolkerstorfer said. “You have to block shots. You have to take it for the team. If we do that I think the rest of the game will take care of itself.”