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BOYS HOCKEY: Lumberjacks control pace in season opener

Bemidji’s Jake Leitner (5) scored twice in a span of minutes during the second period Saturday afternoon against St Cloud Apollo. The Lumberjacks won 6-1. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- Bemidji controlled the puck for most of the afternoon and went on to a 6-1 win over St. Cloud Apollo Saturday at the Bemidji Community Arena.

After gaining an early lead in the season opener, the Lumberjacks (1-0) were able to increase the lead and maintain it to earn the win.

“I thought we had a lot of energy today,” Bemidji head coach Wade Chiodo said. “Overall, I was happy with all three periods.”

Bemidji got its first goal of the season when Sam Bruestle flipped the puck towards the net. Parker Lucas redirected the puck and put it past Apollo goaltender Nick Althaus to take a 1-0 lead midway through the opening period.

Bemidji controlled the puck for the majority of the first period and took the one-goal lead into the intermission.

After not capitalizing on their first two power play chances, the Lumberjacks scored their first power play goal of the season in the second period. Jake Leitner beat the Eagles defenders down the ice and fired a shot right past Althaus’ glove to increase the lead to two goals.

Just 15 seconds later, Leitner added a second to make it a 3-0 advantage.

“It was a huge swing in momentum,” Chiodo said. “Once you get a few goal lead, your players start to loosen up. That was important for us because we have a lot of kids with no previous varsity experience.”

Bemidji tacked on its fourth goal later in the period when Sam Carlson put back the rebound off of Bruestle’s shot from the blue line.

Heading into the final period, the Lumberjacks held a comfortable 4-0 lead.

The Eagles got on the board early in the third on a goal from Hunter Simonson. He was assisted by Jacob Kemp.

Bemidji added a pair of goals in the final minute to increase the lead. The first goal was scored by Lucas, his second of the day. The last goal came on the power play and was tallied by Rocky Copiskey.

“I was very happy to see us keep going,” Chiodo said. “Once you get up on a team, you cannot let down or change what you are doing. We had a defensive breakdown and let a goal in, but that will happen. The important thing was being able to limit the damage and recover.”

Junior goaltender Grant Tharaldson made 17 saves on the afternoon.

“He did a great job,” Chiodo said of his goaltender. “He came up big when we needed him to. They had a few great opportunities and he stepped up and made the save each time.”

Althaus stopped 27 shots for the Eagles.

Bemidji will return to action when it travels to Grand Rapids Tuesday. Apollo drops to 1-1 on the year.

Bemidji 6, St. Cloud Apollo 1

Apollo      0 0 1 --1

Bem        1 3 2  --6

First Period – 1, Bem, Lucas (Bruestle, Neubeck) 7:25.

Second Period – 2, Bem, Leitner (Copiskey) 4:56; 3, Bem, Leitner (unassisted) 5:11; 4, Bem, Carlson (Bruestle) 8:03.

Third period – 5, Apollo, Simonson (Kemp) 4:25; 6, Bem, Lucas (unassisted) 15:02. 7, Bem, Copiskey (Leitner, Forseth) 15:51.

Shots on goal: Apollo -- 5-5-8--18 ; Bem -- 9-14-10--33

Goalies: Apollo-Althaus (27-33;) Bem- Tharaldson (17-18)

Power Plays: Apollo 0-5; Bem- 2-7

Penalties/Minutes: Apollo- 8/27; Bem- 5/10.