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BOYS HOCKEY: Bemidji grabs first home win over Blake

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BEMIDJI -- After a struggle of an outing against Brainerd in its home opener on Thursday, the Bemidji High School boys hockey team was firing on all cylinders on Saturday and earned its first home win of the season with a 3-0 win over The Blake School at Bemidji Community Arena.

“I think our energy level today was a lot better than the other night, and it definitely showed out there for sure,” Jacks head coach Eric Monsrud said.

The Bemidji skaters were able to hold the Bears to just 17 shots, and Matt Fitzgerald was there between the pipes to stop each one.

“He played a great game again,” Monsrud said of the senior goalie. “He’s a great mainstay for us back there. And just defensively speaking, we were able to clear pucks and we were able to get pucks out when they needed to get out.”

On the other end of the ice, the Jacks were hungry for scoring right away. Just 14 seconds in, Blake goalie Aksel Reid left a rebound on the doorstep for an easy BHS tap-in, but the ref lost sight of the puck and blew it dead before the Jacks could bury it.

That set the tone for the period, though, and Tate Hammitt got Bemidji on the board with his first varsity goal eight minutes in with a power-play goal assisted by Hunter Olson.

The Lumberjacks failed to score on several power-play chances against Brainerd on Thursday, but Joe Leitner kept the success going on the man-advantage with a 5-on-3 tally midway through the second period.

“Coach just told me to sit in front of the net and wait for rebounds, and that’s exactly what I did,” Leitner said. “When I got my chance, I wasn’t going to let anybody push me out of the way of it. It was pretty exciting.”

And Leitner wasn’t done. In the second minute of the third period, he was nearing the end of his shift and threw a shot towards a screened Reid and it went all the way through to the net.

With a comfortable 3-0 lead, the Jacks settled in and coasted to the finish, allowing just four shots on goal in the final 17 minutes.

The win may bring Bemidji’s record back above .500, but they expect the next matchup to present much more of a challenge.

Moorhead comes to town for a 6 p.m. game Tuesday, Dec. 5, as the fifth-ranked team in Class AA, according to Let’s Play Hockey’s Nov. 28 poll.

Monsrud said he plans to use Monday’s practice to sharpen up further on defensive zone coverage and also do some work on offense and special teams. The key for Bemidji on Tuesday is to constantly have six players on the ice doing their job from the opening draw to the final buzzer.

“We’re just going to have to play with high energy, and we’re going to have to play for a full three periods,” said Monsrud. “Not take any periods off, play it shift-by-shift, second-by-second and not try to get ahead of ourselves.

“They have a high-end, skilled team, and it’s not just one or two guys. They have a plethora of them. We’re just going to have to key on all of them and just make sure that we’re following our assignments.”

Bemidji 3, Blake 0

BHS 1 1 1 -- 3

BLA 0 0 0 -- 0

First Period -- 1, BHS (Power Play), Hammitt (Olson), 7:59.

Second Period -- 2, BHS (Power Play), Leitner (Justice, McNamara), 8:37.

Third Period -- 3, BHS, Leitner (Hammitt), 1:36.

Goaltending (Shots-Saves) -- BHS, Fitzgerald (17-17); Blake, Reid (34-31)