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Boys hockey: Leitner scores in overtime to lead Bemidji past Buffalo

DULUTH — It is always difficult to concentrate on a game after celebrating Christmas but that was the task of the Bemidji boys hockey team Thursday as it faced Buffalo in the first round of the Duluth Denfeld Holiday Classic.

The importance of Thursday’s contest was more than just another game on the schedule as Buffalo is a section opponent and, because this was the only meeting between the teams this season, the winner would earn four section points.

The Bison (6-3-1) also understood the game’s importance and gave the Jacks all they could handle. After regulation the score was tied at 1-1 but Jake Leitner quickly ended matters when he sped past the defenseman and scored 14 seconds into overtime.

Thursday’s contest was the fourth time that BHS has been extended into overtime but it is the first time that the Jacks won. Bemidji (4-5) advanced to Friday’s championship semifinal against Cloquet (3-6-1) which hammered St. Louis Park 10-2 Thursday afternoon.

“It is great to have this positive reinforcement,” Bemidji coach Wade Chiodo said. “This was a very important game and to win it in overtime is huge.

“At the end of the day we needed to find a way to win an overtime game and we needed to find a way to win a four-point section game. And at the end of the day we found a way to win.”

Leitner scored the game’s first goal 6:20 into the first period.

“There was a scrum in front, Nick headed to the net and was able to poke the puck between the goalie’s legs,” Chiodo said.

The 1-0 lead stood until midway through the third period when Buffalo’s Wilson Anderle beat BHS goalie Garret Atteberry with a rebound.

The deadlock extended into overtime but Leitner made sure that the extra session would not last very long.

“In the overtime Nick took the puck at our blue line, beat the defenseman one-on-one and had a mini break,” Chiodo said. “Nick headed for the post and put the puck top shelf over the goalie’s glove. It was a perfect shot and a near impossible save for any goalie.

“Nick’s first goal was hard nosed but the last one was a pretty goal.”

Atteberry finished with 18 saves while the Jacks offense tested Buffalo goaltender Michael Otten 31 times.

“This was a must-win for us,” Chiodo said. “We really didn’t play our best game and it looked like we were playing with heavy legs. We just weren’t clicking and for us to be successful we need to click.

“But we did find a way to win and winning in overtime after losing our first three overtime games could be the spark that we need.”

Bemidji 1 0 0 1 - 2

Buffalo 0 0 1 0 - 1

First period - 1, Bem, J.Leitner (unassisted) 6:20

Second period - No scoring

Third period - 2, Buf, Anderle (Schuetzle, Ramsey) 8:37

Overtime - 3, Bem, J.Leitner (unassisted) 0:14

Shots - Bemidji 8-12-10-1 - 31; Buffalo 7-5-7-0-19

Saves - Atteberry (Bemidji) 18-19; Otten (Buffalo) 29-31

Penalties/minutes: Bemidji 3/6; Buffalo 1/2

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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