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BOYS HOCKEY: Spuds shut out Bemidji

Bemidji High School goalie Matt Fitzgerald (35) makes a save in the first period of Tuesday's game against Moorhead at the Bemidji Community Arena. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 3
Bemidji High School senior Taylor Andersen (15) shoots the puck in the first period against Moorhead on Tuesday at the Bemidji Community Arena. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 3
Bemidji High School senior Josh Baker (34) takes a shot in the first period against Moorhead on Tuesday at the Bemidji Community Arena. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 3

BEMIDJI -- Bemidji High School senior Matt Fitzgerald has two shutouts this season, but his best performance of the year came on Tuesday against Moorhead at Bemidji Community Arena. He made 35 saves – many of which were grade-A scoring chances and one of which was the 1,000th in his career.

But the No. 5 Spuds got three shots past him, while the Jacks couldn’t get anything going on offense, and Moorhead enjoyed the bus ride home with a 3-0 victory.

“There’s not much you can do,” BHS head coach Eric Monsrud said. “There’s a reason why they're No. 5 in the state, and there’s a reason why they won the state tournament in Bantams. It’s a good hockey club. They’re very deep, and their top guys are very skilled. They look for each other and they move the puck quickly and they move their feet.”

Isaac Henkemeyer-Howe tipped a point shot from Ethan Frisch for the game’s first goal four minutes into the action.

The first goal was the only one Moorhead (4-1) would need, but they scored one in each of the second and third periods, as well, for good measure.

Cole O’Connell scored at the 2:51 mark of the second after winning a battle in front of the net and stuffing a shot under Fitzgerald’s left pad. Carter Randklev and Frisch picked up assists on the play.

With 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the game, the Spuds scored their prettiest goal of the evening with a tic-tac-toe power-play goal. It was Luke Gramer to Wyatt Gunkel to Ryan Stafford, and Stafford put it right under the crossbar for the dagger.

Bemidji (2-2) largely struggled to produce any quality chances in the offensive zone, despite having six power plays.

“We need to move the puck quicker,” Monsrud said. “We’re not moving the puck fast at all, and we’re not very strong on it right now. In order for us to be at the top of Section 8, we have to move the puck quicker, and we have to be a little bit stronger.”

With Moorhead’s all-around talent up and down its roster, the only way someone will be able to upset them in the Section 8AA playoffs is to “just score more goals than them,” said Monsrud.

“They have a lot of high-end guys, so you can’t really just shut down one guy. You’ve got to look out for them all. In the end it just comes down to scoring more than them.”

With one top-5 team behind them, this week’s schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Lumberjacks. No. 2 Duluth East is coming to town for a 7:30 p.m. game Thursday, Dec. 7, at the BCA.

“They’re looking good,” Monsrud said. “They have high-end talent just like we just got done seeing right now against Moorhead. It’ll be another tough test. It’s just a matter of going out there and playing good defensive hockey, and hopefully we can cash in on some opportunities we get.”

Moorhead 3, Bemidji 0

MRHD 1 1 1 -- 3

BHS 0 0 0 -- 0

First Period -- 1, MRHD, Henkemeyer-Howe (Frisch, Larson), 4:06.

Second Period -- 2, MRHD, O’Connell (Randklev, Frisch), 2:51.

Third Period -- 3, MRHD (Power Play), Stafford (Gunkel, Gramer), 14:07.

Goaltending (Shots-Saves) -- BHS, Fitzgerald (38-35); MRHD, Leonard (15-15)