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GIRLS HOCKEY: Comeback falls short for Bemidji against GR-Greenway

Bemidji defenseman Hanna Olson, right, took an open puck in for a shot against Grand Rapids-Greenway’s Hannah Schmoll (28) and Kaya Baker during first-period hockey action Thursday evening. The Lightning beat the Lumberjacks 4-3. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – After Thursday’s 4-3 loss to Grand Rapids-Greenway, the Bemidji girls hockey players and coaches were disappointed that they didn’t come out on top, but the Lumberjacks also left the Community Arena knowing that they are on the right track.

“You came out of this game seeing many positives,” said BHS coach Bob Brink. “The girls have every right to be frustrated that we are 0-5-4 but they can also see that their hard work is paying off and will continue to pay off.”

The Lumberjacks were slow out of the gate and trailed 2-0 after the opening 17 minutes. They rebounded in the second period, however, dominating in shots and in territorial play.

Each team scored a goal in the middle stanza and the Lightning eventually took a 4-1 lead midway through the third period with a power play goal.

Instead of calling it a night, however, Bemidji controlled play during the final seven minutes and the reward for that renewed sprit were a shorthanded goal with 1:29 remaining and another tally with 19 seconds to play.

Grand Rapids-Greenway was able to hang on for the victory, but the Lightning knew that the outcome might have been different had there been a few more minutes on the clock.

“When we were down 4-1 it would have been so easy for the girls to accept another loss, but they didn’t. They battled all the way,” Brink said.

“We know that we have to come out of the gates better and not fall behind early. But, after we played so well in that second period, I figured we were on the right track and could sneak out a win.”

Grand Rapids-Greenway took the 2-0 lead with goals at 6:45 and 10:23, both of them coming from long range through traffic.

The visitors outshot the Jacks only 8-7 but BHS had many other opportunities thwarted by shots or passes bouncing off traffic and caroming well away from their intended targets.

In the second period those shots found their way to the net as Bemidji fired 14 shots on Lightning goaltender Sydney Helmbrecht. The shots also resulted in numerous fat rebounds just outside the crease but more often than not Grand Rapids-Greenway was able to clear the puck just in the nick of time.

A sign of what was to come occurred early in the session when Rachel Holm centered to Karlee Tower who was behind the defense streaking toward the net. Tower seemed in perfect position to tip home the pass but the puck bounced over the blade of her stick and slid out of harm’s way into the corner.

A few minutes later Megan Dondelinger spotted Holmes camped outside the right post and hit her teammate with a perfect pass. Holmes was able to tip the feed but instead of finding the net the puck sailed just wide of the pipe.

“We had many great chances in the second period and many of the opportunities were from girls who typically are not our scorers,” Brink said. “Having other girls creating chances is key because we are going to need to rely on every girl if we are going to be successful.”

The teams traded goals in the final few minutes. Grand Rapids-Greenway took a 3-0 lead 15:18 into the stanza on a jam following a scrum and a minute later Hanna Olson’s shot from inside the right point bounced off traffic and into the net to bring the Lumberjacks within 3-1.

The Lightning upped their cushion to 4-1 with 7:29 to play in the game but that tally set the stage for Bemidji’s furious rally.

With 1:29 remaining Karleigh Wolkerstorfer connected on a short-handed breakaway to pull BHS within 4-2. And with 19 seconds to go Wolkerstorfer scored again, this time by pouncing on a rebound in the crease.

“We came up short but having success at the end of the game was important,” Brink said. “We left the rink with a little bit of confidence.

“Last year we also started slowly but then we played very well the rest of the way. I think we can do that again this year and the way we finished Thursday’s game will give us the confidence that we will need.”

Bemidji is off until Tuesday when it visits Crookston.

G. Rapids-Greenway 2 1 1 - 4

Bemidji 0 1 2 - 3

First period – 1, GRG, Peart (McLaughlin) 6:45. 2, GRG, Brown (unassisted) 10:23

Second period – 3, GRG, Heitkamp (McLaughlin, Schmoll) 5:18. 4, BHS, Olson (Pogue) 16:22

Third period – 5, GRG, Schmoll (Baker) 9:31 PP. 6, BHS, Wolkerstorfer (unassisted) 15:31 SH. 7, BHS, Wolkerstorfer (Tower) 16:41

Shots – Grand Rapids-Greenway 8-8-8-24; Bemidji 7-14-9-30

Saves – GRG, Helmbrecht 27-30; BHS, Frazer 20-24

Penalties/minutes: GRG 4-8; BHS 2-4

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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