Net-crashing Jacks hand Hermantown first loss, improve to 16-1-1
When all is said and done it really doesn't make any difference if the Bemidji boys hockey team moves up in the state Class AA rankings.
But the fact that the Lumberjacks have not been able to climb above No. 15 in the Let's Play Hockey poll, despite entering this weekend with a 14-1-1 record, has not set well with the players.
Friday's 5-3 victory over Brainerd should have caught the attention of the pollsters. And Saturday the Lumberjacks illuminated their potential when they battered previously unbeaten Hermantown 6-2 at Nymore Arena.
"We knew Brainerd was a tough team and we had to get the four section points that were available," said Bemidji captain Max Hazelton. "Hermantown came here unbeaten (15-0-1 and ranked second in the state Class A poll) but we wanted to prove to the state that we are for real.
"We know how good we are and if the state doesn't want to rank us, I guess that is fine. We just need to prove that in March," Hazelton added.
The Lumberjacks were not going to be denied Saturday as they set the tone for a very fast-paced game.
"We had an extra step today," said BHS coach Wade Chiodo. "We were focused on having a purpose on the ice and doing better in our defensive zone. I was happy with the effort both Friday and Saturday and I was very happy with the way we competed and did the little things right."
Among those little things was crashing the net, and Matt Serratore's ability to do that led to Bemidji's first goal three minutes into the action.
John Forseth did the bulk of the work as he raced to the puck at the right circle and unloaded. Hawks goalie Connor Lucas made the initial save but Serratore was waiting outside the post to bang home the rebound.
"We didn't know what to expect but we wanted to set a good pace," Serratore said. "We had a good tempo going so we went with playing rush hockey."
The visitors drew even at 6:09, but the Jacks answered two minutes later as Eric Hernesman found the short side with another rebound.
The 2-1 score stood until the period break, but BHS shattered Hermantown's hopes for a victory with three unanswered goals in the middle session.
Steve Heller started the spurt at 7:45 and 10 seconds later Easton Halbert connected. Serratore provided the clincher as he connected at 11:33 with a one-timer from the right circle five seconds into a BHS power play.
Hermantown tried to claw back with a goal 4:55 into the final stanza but Hazelton dashed the Hawks' hopes with a backhand tally 10 seconds later.
"We didn't want to give Hermantown any momentum at all," Hazelton said of his goal's importance. "We didn't want them to get a sniff of a comeback."
BHS will face another stern test Tuesday when it heads to Grand Rapids.
"This weekend we showed how good we can be," Hazelton said. "Now we have to keep it rolling for seven more regular-season games and then the playoffs."
Hermantown 1 0 1 -- 2
Bemidji 2 3 1 -- 6
First period: 1. B, Serratore (Forseth, Tatro) 3:02; 2. H, Thomas (Gronseth, Skrbich) 6:09; 3. B, Hernesman (Brustle, Halbert) 8:08
Second period: 4. B, S.Heller (Dahedl, J.Heller) 7:45; 5. B, Halbert (Hernesman, Bruestle) 7:55; 6. B, Serratore (Hazelotn, tatro) 11:33 PP
Third period: 7. H, Benson (LeBlanc) 4:55; 8. B, Hazelton (Devescovi) 5:05
Penalties: Hermantown 5 for 10 minutes; Bemidji 5 for 10 minutes
Saves: Lucas (H) 13-8-6-27; Graves (B) 8-8-8-24