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BOYS HOCKEY: Knights attack proves too much for Jacks

Bemidji High School goalie Matt Fitzgerald makes a glove save Saturday during a game against St. Michael-Albertville. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 2
Bemidji High School's Hunter Marcotte looks for an opening on Saturday against a wall of St. Michael-Albertville defensemen. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- Just when the Bemidji High School boys hockey team seemed to be making a run in the second half of the season, this weekend has the Lumberjacks scratching their heads.

After surrendering a 3-1 lead late in the third and losing 4-3 in overtime to Alexandria on Friday, Section 8AA opponent St. Michael-Albertville dominated the first two periods Saturday afternoon en route to a 3-1 win at Bemidji Community Arena.

“We weren’t moving the puck like we usually do,” said Bemidji goalie Matt Fitzgerald, who took Friday off before returning to start on Saturday. “We just weren’t on our game this weekend, and it showed on the scoreboard.”

The Knights (12-5) lost 3-1 in Roseau on Friday night, but despite the long road trip, they were the team that came out hard in Bemidji on Saturday. Just 1 minute, 10 seconds into the action, Garret Sandberg found Blake Spetz at the back door for a quick 1-0 lead.

“They played some good hockey,” BHS head coach Eric Monsrud said. “They were all over us right from the start, and we just didn’t have an answer for it until about the third period when we started to play a little better hockey.”

The Lumberjacks (9-10) spent less than a minute with possession in the offensive zone in the first frame and managed just one shot on goal.

STMA doubled its lead at the 10:39 mark, when leading scorer Adam Flammang went end-to-end, found Brady Berning just inside the blue line, and Berning fired a shot past Fitzgerald.

The trend continued in the middle 17 minutes. A Tanner Hammitt roughing penalty led to a Val Popowski rebound goal on the power play, and the Knights took a 3-0 scoring lead and a 25-4 shots-on-goal lead into the third period.

A combination of issues caused Bemidji’s struggles to move the puck up the ice, according to Monsrud.

“They were moving the puck and moving their feet, and we weren’t,” he said. “All we were doing was standing around watching. We were trying to play on our backhand way more than our forehand, and we aren’t very good on our backhand.”

A stronger start in the third period resulted in roughing and high sticking minors on the Knights just 18 seconds apart.

Bemidji took advantage of the two-man advantage at the 4:05 mark, when Josh Baker put them on the board, assisted by Hunter Olson and Nick Mannausau.

“It kind of gave us a little jump, gave us a little life on the bench, and the kids kind of picked their game up a little bit more and we started to play with a sense of urgency,” Monsrud said. “Our backs were up against the wall, and when your back is up against the wall, you got to come out throwing and I felt like we were really throwing pretty good there.”

The goal sparked better play from the Jacks the rest of the way, but they couldn’t put any more shots past STMA goalie Justin Damon.

BHS pulled Fitzgerald for a sixth skater with 2:01 left, but Ryan Pogue went off for a coincidental roughing penalty and Zak Justice took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, all but ending the Jacks’ chances at a comeback.

“(I’m) very disappointed,” Monsrud said. “Unacceptable to be sitting in the box the way that we sat in the box in a game that we’re trying to battle back from. It’s unacceptable, it’s something that shouldn’t happen, and kids need to take ownership in that.”

Fitzgerald returned to the net after the second penalty, and the Knights took the 3-1 win.

The Jacks travel to Roseau for a 7:30 p.m. game Thursday, Feb.1, at Memorial Arena.

“Another section game for us, and it’s an opportunity for us to get back at them,” Monsrud said. “The last time we played them here, we lost in overtime. We’d like to get back at them here.”

“We just need to get back to how we were playing early on in January, moving our feet and moving the puck, and we’ll be alright,” Fitzgerald added.

Jacks celebrate Senior Day

Prior to and after Saturday’s contest, 13 seniors were honored for their commitment and success in the Bemidji hockey program. They included Ty Tobey, Joey Leitner, Tanner Hammitt, Ryan Pogue, Matt Gish, Taylor Andersen, Nick Mannausau, Josh Baker, Matt Fitzgerald, Ben Mackenroth and Ryan Jones, as well as managers Matt Norgaard and Thor Solien.

St. Michael-Albertville 3, Bemidji 1

STMA 2 1 0 -- 3

BHS 0 0 1 -- 1

First Period -- 1, STMA, Spetz (Sandberg, Swenson) 1:10; 2, STMA, Berning (Flammang) 10:39.

Second Period -- 3, STMA (PP), Popowski (Laylin, Flammang) 6:58.

Third Period -- 4, BHS, Baker (Olson, Mannausau) 4:05.

Goaltending (Shots-Saves) -- BHS, Fitzgerald (31-28); STMA, Damon (14-13).