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Bemidji falls but builds momentum

Bemidji’s Jake Leitner (No. 14) and Sam Bruestle converge on a rebound in front of Thief River Falls goalie Tanner Holmes during Friday’s game at the Community Arena. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – With the Section 8-2A playoffs beginning Tuesday at home against St. Cloud Tech the Bemidji boys hockey team was hoping to gain momentum when it closed the regular season Friday against Thief River Falls.

Despite losing 2-1 at the Community Arena, BHS coach Wade Chiodo believes that the Lumberjacks accomplished that goal.

“I just wanted us to play solid hockey in all three zones and we did that,” Chiodo, whose team will take a 7-16-2 record and the No. 4 seed into the playoffs, said. “Thief is a very good hockey team and we had our opportunities to find the yet. But at the end we came out just a little bit short.”

The Lumberjacks held a territorial edge when the teams were skating at full strength. The difference in Friday’s game was that the Prowlers connected twice on the power play while BHS came up empty on five chances. That drought included a 1:41 span of 5-on-3 hockey midway through the second period when the game was scoreless.

BHS kept the puck in Thief River Falls’ zone the entire 5-on-3 but all the Jacks could muster was a post, a save, a tip that barely sailed over the net and a host of shots that were blocked or wide of their target.

“The 5-on-3 was a crucial part of the game,” Chiodo said. “We had the puck in their zone but we just couldn’t put it in the net.”

A few minutes after that opportunity the Jacks were shorthanded and TRF fared better on its power play chance when Logan Engelstad zipped a wrister past goalie Grant Tharaldson who didn’t see the puck because of the traffic.

Early in the third period Bemidji notched the equalizer as Ben Christopher scored on a breakaway.

The Prowlers, however, scored the game-winner with four minutes to play when Engelstad duplicated his shot and his result. Once again, the Jacks were shorthanded.

“The difference was special teams,” Chiodo said. “They were 2-for-2 and we were 0-for-5.

“Everybody wants to win but the most important thing for me Friday was that we competed hard and we put ourselves in a position to be successful. Hopefully this effort will give us a spark on Tuesday.”

Thief River Falls 0 1 1 - 2

Bemidji 0 0 1 - 1

First period - No scoring

Second period - 1, TRF, Engelstad (Forney) 13:36 PP

Third period – 2, BHS, Christopher (unassisted) 5:20. 3, TRF, Christopher (Ortloff, Forney) 13:05 PP

Saves – Holmes (TRF) 4-9-6-19; Tharaldson (BHS) 5-12-7-24

Penalties/minutes: TRF 5/10; BHS 2/4