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Jacks boys hockey caps regular season with win at Thief River Falls

The Bemidji boys hockey team capped a memorable regular season Thursday as it headed to Thief River Falls and returned with a 5-1 victory.

BHS ended the year with a 21-2-2 record and will own the favorite's role in the Section 8AA tournament.

The playoffs begin Saturday when eighth-ranked River Lakes entertains No. 9 Becker-Big Lake. That winner will travel to top-seeded Bemidji 7 p.m. Tuesday in the quarterfinals.

The 8AA semifinals are set for Feb. 26 and the title game is March 2.

Thursday's victory also assured BHS the Mariucci Conference championship. The Lumberjacks entered the game with an 8-0-2 league mark while Moorhead finished its conference slate 5-1-2. Thief River Falls was 7-3 prior to Thursday's game.

Had the Jacks lost to the Prowlers they still probably would have been given the nod over Moorhead for the conference crown but Thursday's win ended any debate.

"We played solid hockey," said BHS coach Wade Chiodo. "Thief is a good team but we came out and finished when we had the opportunities, Jeremiah Graves (Bemidji's goalie) made the saves when we needed them and we buckled down defensively when we had to clear the zone."

Max Hazelton gave Bemidji an early lead as he beat Prowler goaltender Jon Narverud from close range 2:04 into the action. John Forseth drew the assist.

The 1-0 lead extended into the second stanza but BHS upped its cushion to 3-0 with a pair of unanswered goals.

Dillon Eichstadt converted feeds from Brady Devescovi and Tyler Follis for a power play tally at 7:17 and with only 17 seconds remaining in the period Forseth banged home a rebound of Matt Serratore's shot to give the Lumberjacks their 3-0 advantage after 34 minutes.

Early in the third period Bemidji settled the issue as Forseth fed Serratore and the sophomore capped a 3-on-1 rush with his 15th goal of the winter.

Micah Ranum spoiled Graves' bid for his seventh shutout when he collected his 20th goal at 11:01 but BHS added the exclamation point when Steve Heller connected on a power play with six seconds remaining in the game.

Graves finished with 25 saves while Bemidji sent 22 shots at Narverud.

"The boys can be proud of what they have accomplished this year but our job isn't done yet," Chiodo said "We have the top seed in the section but we have to keep our fire and take advantage of what we have created."

Bemidji 1 2 2 - 5

TRF 0 0 1 - 1

First period: 1. B, Hazelton 18 (Forseth) 2:04

Second period: 2. B, Eichstadt 3 (Devescovi, Follis) 7:17 PP; 3. B, Forseth 10 (Serratore, Hazelton) 16:43

Third period: 4. B, Serratore 15 (Forseth) 2:40; 5. TRF, Ranum 20 (Crosson, Muenier) 11:01; 6. B, S.Heller 16 (Hazelton, Tatro) 16:54 PP

Penalties: Bemidji 5 for 10 minutes; TRF 4 for 8 minutes

Saves: Graves (B) 9-10-6-25; Narverud (TRF) 8-5-4-17

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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