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BOYS SOCCER: Bemidji starting to put the puzzle together, blanks Crookston 5-0

Bemidji’s Niklas Luiga talks a shot on goal as Crookston’s Andy Gregg tries to defend him Thursday evening. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 2
Bemidji defenseman Bruno Cheney clears the ball to the side of the field Thursday. MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER 2 / 2

BEMIDJI — The season began with new faces and familiar faces in new positions and, to no one’s surprise, it took a while for the Bemidji boys soccer players and coaches to learn how to best utilize the team’s talents.

“There were many new pieces to our puzzle,” said Jacks coach Rick Toward, “but the puzzle is beginning to come together.”

Thursday at the middle school pitch the Lumberjacks continued their ascent at the expense of Crookston. After opening the campaign 0-3 BHS cleared the .500 mark at 5-4-3 with a relatively easy 5-0 victory over the Pirates.

“It’s been a long climb,” Toward admitted. “We’re 12 games into our season and we just got over .500. We’ve been in some tight games. We have three ties. Some of the ties were good ones and some of them were not so good.

“But, being 5-4-3 after being 0-3 shows we’re heading in the right direction. The kids are learning how to play together,” the coach added.

Crookston didn’t put up much of a fight Thursday as the Lumberjacks bolted to a 4-0 halftime lead and coasted the rest of the way.

Travis Slettvedt opened the scoring when he tapped home a deflected ball off a corner kick 1:50 into the action.

About eight minutes later Josh Claussen notched his second of the fall with a header from 12 yards out.

At the 14:42 mark Alex Schussman scored his fifth goal of the season with a laser blast from 25 yards out and with 35 seconds to play in the first half Leo Spry collected his seventh goal when he beat Crookston goalie Ian Johnson on a breakaway.

BHS netminder Matt Bitter had a quiet first half as he faced only two shots.

In the second stanza Gunnar Nelson handled the goaltending chores and he needed only one save to preserve the shutout.

Bemidji concentrated on ball control during the final 40 minutes but the Jacks did take three shots, including one by Bitter who scored on a breakaway at the 77-minute mark.

“This is the time of the year when we want to show what we have and the wins and ties we get now are more impressive than any we would have had at the start of the season,” Toward said.

“During the past 10 days we have played St. Cloud Cathedral, Brainerd and Moorhead and we still have another game with Moorhead, another with Hillcrest and Saturday’s game against Sartell to go.

“Fortunately, we did not have to expend a great deal of energy Thursday to beat Crookston and we should be fresh for Sartell,” the coach added.

The Sabres were 8-2-1 prior to Thursday’s game against St. Cloud Tech. They also own a 3-0 win over St. Cloud Cathedral, a team that downed the Lumberjacks 3-1 earlier this month.

Bemidji 5, Crookston 1

Crookston 0 0 - 0

Bemidji 4 1 - 5

First Half

B-Slettvedt (Kovach) 1:50

B-Claussen (Christofferson) 10:33

B-Schussman (Hess) 14:42

B-Spry (Iaquinto) 39:25

Second Half

B-Bitter (Schussman) 37:35


Johnson (Cr) 3 2 - 5

Bitter (B) 2 x - 2

Nelson (B) x 1 - 1

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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