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Boys hockey: Bemidji ties Thief River Falls 2-2 in final regular season game

Bemidji’s Michael Forseth carries the puck into the offensive zone during Friday’s 2-2 tie with Thief River Falls. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Ready or not, the boys hockey regular season is over and the most important portion of the campaign begins on Tuesday.

Bemidji will take a 10-12-3 record into Tuesday’s 7 p.m. Section 8-2A quarterfinal home game against Buffalo and the Lumberjacks enter the postseason riding a 2-1-2 streak.

The two ties during the run came in the final two games. Earlier this week BHS and Brainerd skated to a 2-2 overtime draw and Friday the Jacks and Thief River Falls battled to another 2-2 tie.

“Thief River (14-10-1) is a very good hockey team and our goal on Friday was to keep our momentum going and enter the playoffs playing good hockey,” said Bemidji coach Wade Chiodo. “I don’t think we played our best hockey Friday but, overall, we played okay.”

The Prowlers and the Lumberjacks probably deserved to tie as the game was played on even terms from the opening shift. BHS managed 30 shots on visiting goalie Tanner Holmes while TRF tested Bemidji netminder Gabe Heifort 27 times.

BHS never trailed but also never was able to score a key insurance goal that would have put extra pressure on the Prowlers.

“The kids tried hard but it seemed that they just didn’t have the giddy-up in their legs to take control,” Chiodo said. “I thought our first period was sluggish but in the second and third periods we picked up the pace and played okay.”

Bemidji took a 1-0 lead six minutes into the opening stanza when Erik Fitzgerald held the zone at the left point and found the net when his wrister bounced off traffic and past Holmes.

The Jacks squandered a pair of power play opportunities in the period but TRF fared better on its initial man-advantage situation when Isak Bergland beat Heifort with a low bullet from the blue line at the 12:38 mark.

BHS answered with a power play tally midway through the middle stanza when Jake Leitner took a feed from Nick Leitner and surprised Holmes with a spin shot from the right circle.

Bemidji maintained its 2-1 advantage through the period but 27 seconds into the third session Brendan Bushy beat Heifort with a two-hopper from the left point.

Shots on net were difficult to come by in the third period as Bemidji managed only six and the Prowlers seven. In the scoreless overtime Heifort was called upon to make seven more stops while Holmes had six saves.

“The regular season is over and now we begin the fun time of the season,” Chiodo said. “Being ready for the playoffs is what you work for during the regular season and we’re ready.”

Thief River Falls earned the No. 3 seed in the Section 8A playoffs and will open its postseason Thursday at home against No. 6 Park Rapids.

Thief River Falls 1 0 1 0 - 0

Bemidji 1 1 0 0 - 2

First period - 1, Bem, Fitzgerald (unassisted), 5:45. 2, TRF, Bergland (Johnson) 12:38 PP

Second period - 3, Bem, J.Leitner (N.Leitner, Johnson) 7:35 PP

Third period - 4, TRF, Bushy (unassisted) 0:27

Overtime - No scoring

Saves - Holmes (TRF) 8-8-6-6-28; Heifort (Bem) 7-5-6-7-25

Penalties/minutes - TRF 6/12; Bemidji 2/4

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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