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This week at BHS: Top-seeded Lumberjack boys hockey team opens playoffs Tueday against River Lakes

With the regular season a thing of the past, the Bemidji High School boys hockey team begins its quest for the ultimate prize 7 p.m. today when it hosts River Lakes at the Community Arena in the Section 8AA quarterfinals.

"It's the real deal now," said BHS coach Wade Chiodo. "We're done with the regular season and we have to be ready to go each night from now on. Our intensity has to be very high."

The Lumberjacks had a terrific regular season and enter the section competition as the top seed with a 21-2-2 record. River Lakes is on the other end of the spectrum as the Stars went 3-21-1 during the campaign.

River Lakes was ranked eighth in the nine-team section but defeated Becker-Big Lake 4-3 Saturday in a play-in game.

During the regular season Bemidji belted River Lakes 9-1 but Chiodo isn't about to take anything for granted.

"We've earned the top seed but during the playoffs we have to play like we are the top seed," the coach said. "We have to be focused on who we play and on when we play. Every little detail in the playoffs is magnified and it is vital that we pay attention to those details."

Bemidji, which ended the regular season ranked No. 14 in the Let's Play Hockey Class AA poll, doesn't have any player who is among the state's top scorers but few teams can match the Lumberjacks' balance.

Max Hazelton is the team leader in goals (18) and points (33) but six teammates have more than 25 points.

That list includes Steven Heller (16-16-32), Matt Serratore (15-17-32), Tyler Follis (12-17-29), John Forseth (10-19-29), Tyler Tatro (4-24-28) and Jordan Heller (12-14-26).

Goaltender Jeremiah Graves, however, is among the state's elite as the senior owns the seventh best save percentage (.928) and is tied for seventh in wins (17) and goals against average (1.68).

Tonight's lineup will feature Hazelton centering Serratore and Forseth, Follis flanked by Steven Heller and Jordan Heller and Easton Halbert (4-14-18) centering Jake White (6-5-11) and Eric Hernesman (2-8-10).

The fourth line will include James Bofferding (0-1-1) and Garrett Lind (0-1-1) but Chiodo is waiting for an update on Will Bruestle's injury before finalizing his roster.

Bruestle (5-5-10) separated his shoulder a few weeks ago and is hoping to return to the lineup during the playoffs.

Defenisvely the Jacks will go with Cam Dahedl (2-5-7) and Tatro, Dillon Eichstadt (3-11-14) and Brady Devescovi (5-10-15) and Kole Spencer (0-1-1) with Matt Port (1-2-3).

"The people are excited, the coaches are excited and the players are excited," Chiodo said. "This group of kids has been focused all year as evidenced by our 21-2-2 record. They can't wait to get the playoffs going and show why we are the top seed."

Today's other upper-bracket quarterfinal game sees Brainerd entertaining St. Cloud Tech. In the lower bracket Moorhead hosts Buffalo and Monticello visits Roseau.

Today's winners advance to Saturday's semifinals. If the Jacks win tonight they will host either Brainerd or Tech 7 p.m. at the BCA.

The Section 8AA championship game is March 2 at a neutral site.

Girls basketball ends regular season

Bemidji's girls basketball team will host Detroit Lakes tonight and Grand Rapids Thursday in the regular-season finales.

The Lumberjacks are coming off Friday's 58-49 win at Duluth Central which snapped a nine-game losing skid.

Detroit Lakes is 12-11 and has won three of its last four games, defeating Fergus Falls, Park Rapids, Staples and Crosby-Ironton but losing to Alexandria.

Grand Rapids is 16-8 and takes a four-game winning streak into today's game at Hermantown.

Boys basketball team visits GR

Bemidji improved to 19-3 Saturday when it toppled Willmar 73-56 and the Lumberjacks expect a stern test Thursday when they battle the 15-8 Thunderhawks.

If BHS can win Thursday at Grand Rapids and defeat Thief River Falls and Detroit Lakes next week it will earn the Section 8AAA's top seed.

Wrestlers draw Prior Lake at state

Bemidji (21-9) will open its state wrestling schedule 11 a.m. March 3 against Prior Lake at the Xcel Center.

State officials rank the top four teams in the state field and Prior Lake (22-10) was seeded No. 4. Bemidji was unseeded but was paired against Prior Lake in a random draw.

The other opening lower-bracket match sees No. 1 Apple Valley (34-0) facing White Bear Lake (20-5).

In the upper bracket No. 2 St. Michael (31-4) faces Centennial (21-12) and No. 3 Albert Lea (27-3) meets Hopkins (19-6).

The Lumberjacks will be at St. Cloud Apollo Friday and Saturday for the 8-3A individual tournament.

Swimmers, divers return to action

The boys swimmers and divers have been off since Feb. 8 but they will return to the pool Friday at the section meet hosted by Morris.

Friday's schedule includes the diving and the swimming preliminaries and those who gain the swimming finals will hit the water on Saturday.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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