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Looking back in 2012: Busy year for area athletes, teams

BEMIDJI – The last thing former Bemidji State University hockey player Matt Read wanted this season was a lockout and the loss of any portion of the National Hockey League season.

Read was coming off a stellar rookie campaign that saw the Beaver alum score 24 goals and tally 47 points. His 24 goals were the most of any NHL rookie last year.

Read also experienced the rigors of the extended NHL playoffs as Philadelphia advanced all the way to the East Conference semifinals before losing four games to one to New Jersey.

His success as an NHL rookie was among the highlights of 2012 for Bemidji Pioneer sports fans.

In the collegiate scene former Lumberjack Sarah Erickson scored twice in the NCAA championship game to lead the Gophers past Wisconsin 4-2.

“In the past I thought it was going to happen but we came up short the past few years. “But this year we did it,” she said.

“Hoisting the trophy was bittersweet. We had just won a championship but at the same time I realized my career was over. I realized that we would never be together again as a group. I couldn’t have hoped for a better ending to my career.”

Erickson finished her senior season with 20 goals and 29 assists.

Bemidji is fortunate to have many excellent coaches overseeing its youth programs and among them is Bob Fitzgerald. Last winter Fitzgerald was one of 15 coaches in Minnesota to receive the 3M Excellence in Coaching award. Fitzgerald currently is the Bantam A coach.

The award was given for his ability to teach hockey skills, demonstrate respect for the opponents, officials and the game, display an emphasis on positive reinforcement and fun and the ability to share a passion for the game.


Another on-ice winter highlight was the success of the area curlers, including Mark Fenner and Alex Fenson who were part of the state junior championship team skipped by Ethan Meyers of Duluth.

At the national meet the rink finished 5-4 in the round-robin but lost a tie-breaker for the final semifinal spot.

The Cassie Potter and Allison Pottinger rinks both had a Bemidji flavor and the two met in the championship game of the national women’s tournament.

The Pottinger rink, which included Natalie Nicholson of Bemidji, stopped the Potter rink 7-5. Among the curlers on the Potter rink were Cassie Potter and Jamie Haskell of Bemidji.

In the men’s championship division the Pete Fenson rink lost to Heath McCormick in the national final.


Area anglers also made news last winter. Bernie Trepanier had a memorable day in his fish house along the Diamond Point Bar of Lake Bemidji when he caught a 28-inch walleye, a 6-pound eelpout and a new rod and reel, all at the same time.

 “I’ve never caught a rod and reel before and I’ve never heard of anyone catching a rod and reel, a walleye and an eelpout at the same time,” Trepanier said.

The eelpout hit his sucker minnow and got tangled with the rod and reel which had a walleye attached.

A week later Bemidji’s Aaron Guthrie caught the state record eelpout when he landed a 19.54-pound fish on Lake of the Woods.

“The eelpout is a gorgeous fish,” he said. “The ling cod is one of the ugliest fish in the world but they are so tasty. And the eelpout is a freshwater ling cod. Why wouldn’t you fish for them?”

The top story of the summer fishing scene was created by Kaleb Hanson and his father Kelly Hanson who won the Kraus-Anderson Walleye Classic with 18.08 pounds.


In area high school basketball action last winter Cass Lake-Bena was seeded No. 1 in Sub-section 8-A East but lost to second-seeded Fosston in the sub-section final.

Bagley was seeded No. 2 in its Class 2A sub-section and gained the section title game where the Flyers lost 47-42 to Perham.

“We played the No. 1 team in the state and we gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game and go to state,” said Bagley coach Chuck Anderson. “Over the past two years we went 50-10. Our guys put together a great career. They worked very hard and I’m proud of them.”

In girls basketball play Clearbrook-Gonvick lost to Warren-Alvarado-Oslo in the Section 8A title game.


Area golfers experienced a jump-start to their season when spring came early. The Bemidji Town and Country Club opened March 22, the earliest in the course’s history, while Longbow, Greenwood and Sandtrap all opened in March.

On July 2 some of the courses sustained extended damage from a storm that hit the area with 85 mile per hour winds. Sandtrap lost at least 100 trees, many of them landmarks and part of the integrity of the course.

Maple Ridge lost between 50 and 100 trees and every hole was affected. Greenwood lost about 20 trees.

Maple Ridge and Sandtrap were closed for about a week.

On the professional level, Bemidji native Bill Israelson qualified for the Senior PGA Championship tournament at Benton Harbor, Mich. Israelson failed to make the 36-hole cut after shooting 83-79-162.

In high school action Aaron Leintz of Bagley led the Flyers to the Pine to Prairie Conference boys title and qualified for state Class 2A, finishing 33rd with rounds of 75-82-157.

At the Section 8A meet at the Bemidji Town and Country Club Cass Lake-Bena’s boys were denied a trip to state when Cody Wind was disqualified for misinterpreting a rule and playing a ball under the water hazard rule instead of the lost-ball rule after losing, and then finding his ball, on No. 15.

Wind played both the drop and the original ball but the rules stated he should have gone back to the tee box and re-tee.

As a result, Wind was disqualified and his 84 or 85 score was thrown out. Without Wind’s score CL-B’s team score ballooned from 354 or 355 to 277 and Cass Lake-Bena was overtaken by Fosston for the section’s state tournament berth.

Brunelle qualified for state individually as did Red Lake’s Rob McNeal in the boys division and Daisey Mondragon in the girls meet.

Brunelle placed third at state at 151. McNeal was 44th at 171.

Red Lake’s Mondragon tied for 73rd at 217.

Later in the summer Josh Bergrud of Grand Forks stopped Johnny Larson of Springfield to win the Birchmont Men’s title. Aaron Leintz was the Junior champ, Lee Hetletved claimed the Executives, Brian Patterson the Seniors, Missy Tabery the Women’s and Joe Mayer the Masters.


On the diamond Blackduck High School made history as the Drakes advanced to the state tournament for the first time in the school’s history.

Blackduck defeated BOLD 4-2 in its state opener but lost 7-0 to St. Agnes and 4-0 to Browerville to finish fourth.

In youth baseball Bemidji’s 12-year-old Northern Heat won the state championship, placed third at the Midwest Regional and finished with a 30-10 record.

The 10-U team was second at the state, hosted the regional and finished 19-9 after winning one of three games at the region meet.

The Blue Ox finished one game short of the state men’s amateur tournament after losing to ADA in the region semifinals.

The Legion finished 20-9-1 after being eliminated by St. Cloud in District 6 play.

In softball play, Bemidji’s 16-U team placed second at the North American Association national tournament and ended the summer 37-8.


Marissa Carlson of Bagley was the area’s lone state qualifier after she finished second in the mile with a time of 5:23.96. She finished 15th at state.

Former teacher and Bagley High School coach Carl Malm was inducted into the Minnesota Track Coaches hall of Fame on Jan. 27.

Fall sports

Blackduck’s football team snapped a 30-game losing streak early in the year and finished 5-3 during the regular season. The Drakes won their first playoff game but lost to Cook County in the section quarterfinals.

TrekNorth also had success this fall as Sarah Hamrin and Sadie Hamrin qualified for the state Class A cross country meet. They are the first TrekNorth athletes to advance to a state competition.

Sadie finished 51st and Sarah 57th. Bagley had two state runners, Marissa Carlson who was 97th and Wesley Davies who was 56th. 

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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