BEMIDJI -- When the Bemidji High School girls hockey team went on the power play just 29 seconds into the new season, Gracie Fisher’s highlight-reel goal started things off with a bang.
The senior’s score was a microcosm of the night -- a promising start turned impressive showcase -- for a strong 5-2 victory over East Grand Forks at the Bemidji Community Arena.
And in turn, the Lumberjacks clinched their first season-opening win since 2011.
“We all wanted to come out… starting strong. We’re changing the way this program’s working,” Fisher said of a program that last had a winning season in 2012-13. “We’re going to start off strong and come out with a win at the end of the day. We all just busted our butt, and it worked.”
Fisher’s opening statement came at the 1:43 mark of the first period. She dangled her way through two defenders and then deeked her shot past Lynnsey Hartwig for the power-play goal.
“Gracie just took charge, made an extra move and dangled a little. She was determined to get that thing to the net,” BHS head coach Mike Johnson said. “For her to take charge like that was a really fantastic way to start the game.”
Midway through the first period, Fisher netted her second with a slapshot from the point for a 2-0 lead after one. But Johnson was happy that his team didn’t feel satisfied.
“I was hoping they weren’t overjoyed, like they had accomplished anything, because they really hadn’t,” he said. “And they weren't. They were businesslike. I mean, they were feeling good, but they were businesslike. That’s important that they knew they hadn’t done anything yet. They needed to keep on working hard. We won the second period, and then we went from there.”
More fireworks came in the middle frame.
Jacelyn Brenden sliced the Bemidji lead in half at the 1:25 mark, but Lexi Leitner restored the two-goal edge all of 12 seconds later with an unassisted tally. Olivia Johnson scored next off a Leitner pass, and then Eva Latuiri made for a 5-1 game off tic-tac-toe passing from Fisher and Johnson.
Late in the period, Brenden pushed in a fluttering puck for a 5-2 game after two, but it was as close as EGF (0-1) would come.
Nettie Kimble stood tall in net, stopping nearly everything that came her way -- which included more than a handful of breakaway tries.
“Nettie doesn’t ever have any nerves,” Fisher said. “She’s always calm. I don’t think it fazed her when she saw seven breakaways or however many she got tonight. She’s just ready for anything.”
Johnson was equally impressed by his netminder.
“Nettie’s just Nettie,” he said. “She’s a good goaltender, she owns the net. She plays with a smile on her face and stops pucks. She did a fantastic job tonight.”
Kimble finished with 28 saves, while Hartwig stopped 18 for the Green Wave. Both were perfect in a scoreless third period, and the Jacks comfortably snapped a six-game losing streak in season openers, all against East Grand Forks.
“East Grand’s typically a top-10 Class A team. They’re very solid, and I know they’ve got a good team,” Johnson said. “We just had a bunch of kids who went out, played as hard as they could and believed in themselves. … We had a good start, and we kept that start going.”
BHS returns to the BCA at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, against Grand Rapids/Greenway. But that first win meant quite a bit in the home locker room after Friday’s game.
“Honestly, we’re so pumped,” Fisher said. “We’re undefeated now. … It’s so fun to try to turn things around.”
Bemidji 5, East Grand Forks 2
EGF 0 2 0 -- 2
BHS 2 3 0 -- 5
First period -- 1, BHS, Fisher (unassisted) 1:43, PP; 2, BHS, Fisher (Latuiri) 8:44.
Second period -- 3, EGF, Brenden (unassisted) 1:25; 4, BHS, Leitner (unassisted) 1:37; 5, BHS, Johnson (Leitner) 6:42; 6, BHS GOAL, Laituri (Fisher, Johnson) 11:53, PP; 7, EGF, Brenden (K. Johnson) 14:40.
Third period -- No scoring.
Goalies (saves-shots) -- BHS, Kimble (28-30); EGF, Hartwig (18-23).