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Bemdji HS girls hockey team earns big win over Brainerd-Little Fals

The end of the regular season for the Bemidji girls hockey team is less than three weeks away and the Lumberjacks are making their push to enter the section playoffs at the peak of their game.

Saturday afternoon at Nymore Arena the Lumberjacks continued their improved play as they knocked off Brainerd-Little Falls 6-5. The Flying Warriors are among the elite teams in the section and they entered Saturday's contest 11-2-2. When they headed south, however, Brainerd-LF was 11-3-2 with one of the losses and one of the ties coming at the hands of Bemidji.

"This was a big game for us in terms of seeding for the section tournament," said BHS senior Janie Johnson who scored two goals Saturday. "We are trying to get into the top four and if we keep playing like this we have a chance to do that."

"This was a big win," added coach Matt Menne. "We hurt Brainerd in terms of it getting the top seed and we improved our chances of getting into the top four. It was also encouraging to see us score six goals. No team had scored more than five against Brainerd this year and to put up six is awesome."

Johnson opened the scoring 5:10 into the contest when she camped at the right post and jabbed home a rebound of Megan Phelps' shot from the blue line. A few seconds before the goal Brainerd-LF was whistled for a tripping penalty and the Lumberjacks scored while skating with the extra player.

"Getting the first goal was a big deal. We needed to score early to maintain our energy," Johnson said.

Menne agreed on the importance of scoring early.

"It was awesome to get that first goal and get it early," the coach said. "In the 4-4 tie at Brainerd earlier this year we dominated in the first period and got ahead 3-0. Saturday we played with confidence and we needed to because both teams were going after each other."

The Flying Warriors scored the next two goals as Sierra Hanowski connected at 6:59 and again at 9:19.

But Johnson matched Hanowski as she notched her second goal at 10:54 with a sterling solo effort.

The Bemidji defense cleared its zone and Johnson picked the pocket of the Brainerd-LF forward at the Bemidji blue line.

Johnson carried the puck the length of the ice, skated around two defenders and, when she was between the circles, whistled a waist-high wrister past goalie Kierra Howard and inside the post.

BHS took a 3-2 lead five minutes later when Chaniel Nelson banged home a rebound but the visitors answered a minute later off a faceoff.

Neither team scored in the middle period and the 3-3 deadlock continued into the final 17 minutes.

The teams continued trading goals through the midway point of the final stanza and scoring for the Lumberjacks were Allie Lapp 36 seconds into the period and Karli Tower at 3:12.

Brainerd-LF, however, promptly answered each time.

With 6:01 remaining Nelson tallied her second goal of the game as she converted Lapp's behind-the-net feed and this time the visitors could not penetrate Bemidji's defenses.

The Lumberjacks thwarted Brainerd-Little Falls' attack by swarming to the puck carrier and the Flying Warriors could do little to generate any sustainable puck control.

"We picked each other up," Johnson said. "We have many new girls on the team and it took time to adjust. But right now we are having fun. There are good vibes everywhere and it's much easier playing the game when you are having fun."

The Lumberjacks, 6-10-2, take a break from the section schedule Tuesday when they head to Cloquet.

Brainerd-LF 3 0 2 - 5

Bemidji 3 0 3 - 6

First period: 1. Bem, Johnson (Heifort, Phelps) 5:10; 2. B-LF, Hankowski (Desrocher) 6:59 PP; 3. B-LF, Hankowski (Desrocher, Sorenson) 9:19; 4. Bem, Johnson (Gregg, Olson) 10:54; 5. Bem, Nelson (Heifort, Hunt) 5:38 PP; 6. B-LF, Maranbrown (unassisted) 16:31 PP

Second period: No scoring

Third Period: 7. Bem, Lapp (unassisted) 0:36; 8. B-LF, Desrocher (Sorenson) 1:53; 9. Bem, Tower (Nelson) 3:12; 10. B-LF, Joyce (Stark) 7:54 PP; 11. Bem, Nelson (Lapp) 10:59

Penalties: Brainerd-LF 4 for 8 minutes; Bemidji 4 for 8 minutes

Saves: Howard (B-LF) 8-11-8 - 27; Thompson (Bem) 6-4-7-17

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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