MOORHEAD -- For the second straight season, the Bemidji High School boys hockey team brought Moorhead to the brink of elimination in the Section 8AA quarterfinals Wednesday night.
The Lumberjacks’ Wyatt Mattfield sent the game to overtime with 6:45 to play in regulation, but the Spuds struck with six seconds to play in the extra period to secure a 3-2 win.
“They did everything we asked of them as coaches,” BHS head coach Pete Stahnke said. “They absolutely worked their tails off. They were playing really good hockey at the right time and I think that’s what gave us that opportunity tonight.”
BHS goaltender Tanner Rebischke racked up 47 saves in a standout night in net. The senior almost duplicated his 52-save performance from last season’s section quarterfinal matchup when the Jacks similarly went on the road and nearly knocked off top-seeded Moorhead.
“He did the same thing last year. I think he played unbelievable,” Stahnke said. “He made all the tough saves and he allowed us to have a chance at winning in overtime.”
The clock was winding down late in overtime when the Spuds scored with six seconds left as bodies piled up in front of Rebischke. Luke Leonard was eventually credited with poking the winning goal out of the scrum.
“That last one that went in hit a broken stick and was bouncing all over the place,” Stahnke said of the deciding goal. “There were guys all over the place. That puck just found a way through everybody and went in. It was unfortunate, but (Rebischke) was outstanding.”
The Spuds (11-7-1) carried the No. 2 seed and the Lumberjacks (8-11) the No. 7 seed into Wednesday’s playoff tilt.
The teams were deadlocked at 1-1 through the opening frame.
Ian Ness scored on a wraparound to put the Spuds up at the 5:41 mark of the first period.
WIth only 35 seconds remaining, Hunter Marcotte worked his way down low and knotted the game up, giving Bemidji a kick heading to the locker room. Grant Declusin set up the goal and was credited with an assist.
Ness netted his second goal of the night on a one-timer with 6:23 to go in the second stanza. Carson Triggs fed him from behind the cage as Moorhead regained a 2-1 lead before the intermission.
Rebischke made timely saves to help keep the Spuds from padding their lead.
An interference call against the home team with 7:46 to play was just what BHS needed.
One minute into the advantage, Mattfield was at the doorstep to tip in a puck played by Connor Savard. The sophomore’s goal tied the game at 2-2 with 6:45 to play in the third period.
“That was a great play by Connor Savard,” Stahnke said. “I don’t know how he saw him. He had the puck up top and Wyatt was wide open on the backside. Connor put an absolutely perfect pass on his stick and then (Mattfield) hammered it home.”
Bemidji successfully weathered a penalty kill that began one minute into the eight-minute overtime period.
Just as it appeared a second overtime would be needed, Moorhead netted the late winner.
The Spuds outshot BHS 50-30 for the game. Will Kunka totaled 28 saves in net for the win.
The Lumberjacks came up short in another nail-biter against rival Moorhead to end the season, but they showed how much progress they’d made.
Bemidji improved from a 3-22-1 campaign last season to finish 8-11 in a shortened 2020-21 season. The team won its final four regular-season games, beginning with a 5-2 victory at Brainerd on March 4.
“We started out slow. We couldn’t find that way to win, and these guys just kept battling. They could’ve easily thrown in the towel,” Stahnke said. “I think the big turning point was when we beat Brainerd in Brainerd. We beat them pretty convincingly, and from there on, they just really built confidence in themselves and turned things around. … I can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys.”
Thirteen seniors completed their BHS hockey careers Wednesday: Declusin, Marcotte, Rebischke, Savard, Nathan Alto, Michael Dickinson, Tate Hammitt, Lincoln Huerd, Ethan Maish, Nathan Mannausau, Cole Matetich, Josh Nyberg and Rhett Seeger.
No. 2 Moorhead 3, No. 7 Bemidji 2 (OT)
BHS 1 0 1 0 -- 2
MHD 1 1 0 1 -- 3
First period -- 1, MHD, Ness (Triggs, Lindberg), 5:41; 2, BHS, Marcotte (Declusin), 16:25.
Second period -- 3, MHD, Ness (Triggs, Lindberg), 10:37.
Third period -- 4, BHS, Mattfield (Savard, Gladen), 10:15, PP.
Overtime -- 5, MHD, Leonard (unassisted), 7:54.
Goalies (saves-shots) -- BHS, Rebischke (47-50); MHD, Kunka (28-30).