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BOYS HOCKEY: Burns comes up big for Bemidji in Section 8-2A victory

Buffalo’s Jerame Schuetzle, left, comes from behind the net with a shot to the chest of Lumberjacks goalie Gabe Heifort in the second period Tuesday night. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Noah Burns’ wrap-around goal with five minutes to play in regulation enabled the Bemidji boys hockey team to tie Buffalo 2-2 after regulation and force an overtime in their Section 8-2A quarterfinal contest Tuesday at the Community Arena.

When Burns beat Bison goalie Michael Otten with the same move 10 minutes into the second overtime the Lumberjacks officially punched their ticket to Roseau for Saturday’s section semifinals.

“That was a great high school game. There were two even teams and this is what playoff hockey is all about,” said BHS coach Wade Chido. “This was a night that our seniors stepped up. They gave us to big goals and played very well the entire game.”

In the heat of battle hockey players don’t think — they react. And Burns’ reactions were spot-on.

“I really didn’t think about the move on either goal,” the Jacks forward said. “The move just came to me. I always want to go hard to the net and tonight the shot was there so I took it.

“After I scored with it the first time I guess I felt that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And I think I caught (Otten) by surprise both times.”

During the regular season Bemidji and Buffalo battled to overtime during the holiday tournament at Duluth Denfeld. BHS won that game 2-1 and the victory helped the Jacks earn the fourth seed in the section playoffs.

Tuesday the teams battled on even terms once again and the outcome could have gone either way.

“You never know what’s going to happen in the playoffs,” Chiodo said. “Winning or losing usually comes down to a hot goalie and taking advantage of the little things.”

Both teams had hot goalies. Bemidji’s Gabe Heifort stopped 30 shots, including a couple sensational saves to thwart Buffalo breakaways. Otten also made 30 saves and continually worked his way into perfect position to make difficult saves appear easy.

Neither team scored during the first two periods and a 0-0 score after regulation seemed a distinct possibility.

Early in the third stanza the Lumberjacks broke the duel when Jack Johnson and Parker Lucas fought for possession and eventually relayed the puck to Erik Fitzgerald who was stationed at the left point.

Fitzgerald let loose with a waist-high slap shot that filtered through the traffic and beat Otten inside the right post.

The goal ignited the home-town crowd but Buffalo quickly snuffed the flame when it answered a minute later. Hunter Thompson was among the Bison who jabbed at a rebound in the crease and he was credited with poking the puck past Heifort.

A minute later the visitors struck again when Gunnar Goodmanson beat Heifort from the right side.

Buffalo maintained its lead despite having to kill a pair of penalties but with 4:50 to play Burns scored the goal that eventually forced overtime when he corralled a loose puck behind the Bison net and stuffed the puck inside the post.

“We’re a team and we came out tonight with the idea that we didn’t want to lose,” Burns said. “Everybody stepped up and we played a great game.”

That mindset carried the Jacks through a scoreless first extra period and seven minutes of the second overtime. Finally, Burns rewarded the fans and his teammates with his second tuck-in goal.

“When you are in a second overtime you have to play simple hockey,” Chiodo said. “Everybody is tired and you don’t get many opportunities. When you do get one you have to take advantage of it.

“Gabe came up with a couple of big overtime saves and we rode the tying goal until Burnsie was able to do the same thing in the second overtime,” the coach added.

Bemidji (11-12-3) will now travel to top-ranked Roseau (17-7-1) Saturday night for the section semifinals. The Rams survived a scare Tuesday when they edged No. 8 seed River Lakes 4-3.

In Tuesday’s other quarterfinals second-ranked Moorhead blitzed No. 7 St. Cloud Tech 8-0 and No. 3 Brainerd thumped sixth-seeded Monticello 5-1.

Moorhead will host Brainerd in Saturday’s other semifinal.

“Winning this game gives our young team the experience of what it is like to be successful in playoff hockey,” Chiodo said. “In the playoffs every team will be physically and mentally prepared. The kids worked extremely hard tonight and they deserve the opportunity to play in Saturday’s semifinal game.”

Bemidji 3, Buffalo 2, 2OT

Buffalo 0 0 2 0 0 - 2

Bemidji 0 0 2 0 1 - 3

First period - No scoring

Second period - No scoring

Third period - 1, Bem, Fitzgerald (Lucas, Johnson) 1:45. 2, Buf, Thompson (Sawdey) 3:25. 3, Buf, Goodmanson (Schuetzle) 4:22. 4, Bem, Burns (unassisted) 12:10

First overtime - No scoring

Second overtime - 5, Bem, Burns (unassisted) 9:59

Saves - Otten (Buf) 7-7-8-4-4-30; Heifort (Bem) 6-9-9-3-3-30

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

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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