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BOYS HOCKEY: Bemidji nearly storms back from 4 down, but can’t finish comeback

The Lumberjacks found themselves down 4-0 just 9:29 in, digging a monumental hole to climb out of. Yet the Jacks almost did it, scoring three straight goals before the second intermission.

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The Lumberjacks fight for the puck during the second period against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School boys hockey team rode a roller coaster of emotions on Friday night at the Bemidji Community Arena.

The Lumberjacks found themselves down 4-0 just 9:29 into a matchup against Sartell-St. Stephen, digging a monumental hole to climb out of. Yet the Jacks almost did it, scoring three straight goals before the second intermission.

But Bemidji couldn’t find a tying score, and the Lumberjacks ultimately fell 5-3 after a late empty-net goal sealed victory for the Sabres.

“It was just a bad start,” BHS assistant coach Travis Smith said. “We didn't come out hard. (We) took a lot of penalties in the first period. (Sartell) capitalized on it. We were pretty proud of them in the second period, coming back, but just not a lot of effort tonight.”

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The Lumberjacks battle for the puck during the first period against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The proceedings commenced inauspiciously for the Lumberjacks (1-4). Nolan Smith took advantage of a Bemidji turnover and beat goaltender Alex Schaefer on a shorthanded breakaway at 4:47, then Kyan Rieder scored for the Sabres (3-1) on the power play at 6:45. Elliot Testa added a third 15 seconds later, then another at 9:29 for a lightning-quick 4-0 Sartell-St. Stephen lead.

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The Jacks began the long road back to competitiveness with Wyatt Mattfield's backhanded goal at 10:04. BHS then proceeded to dominate the second period, managing a 17-0 advantage in shots on goal and capitalizing on the Sabres' penchant for penalties.

Noah Mannausau scored from the blue line during a 5-on-3 at 4:28, then Casey Rupp laced in a shot from the right point at 7:32. Suddenly down 4-3, the Lumberjacks found themselves back in contention.

"The boys recovered pretty good,” Smith said. “It showed in the second period. We pretty much outplayed them in the second period. So they bounced back right, but it is hard when you get down 4-0 that quick.”

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Bemidji senior Wyatt Mattfield (9) scores during the first period against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji fought to even the score in the third period, but the Lumberjacks couldn't find the back of the net despite a 9-4 advantage in shots on goal. BHS also had two different opportunities with a man advantage – including a power play for the final 1:23 of game time – but the Jacks simply couldn’t find the elusive equalizer.

“The boys were pretty excited after the second period. Had a lot of energy,” Smith said. “And we had chances in the third, we just couldn’t hit the net on a few of them. But the energy was pretty good after the second period.”

Bemidji went 1-for-7 on the power play, scoring only on Mannausau’s 5-on-3 strike. Sartell-St. Stephen converted one of four man advantages but also scored two shorthanded goals, including Testa’s empty-netter at 16:43 in the third that closed out the game.

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Bemidji senior Gunnar Olson (15) fights for the puck during the first period against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“Of course they're disappointed,” Smith said of the Jacks’ players. “They wanted to win, they're all competitors. But not a lot was said after. We’ll just kind of let them take the weekend and think about what happened, and we'll get back to work on Monday.”

Schaefer finished with 12 saves for Bemidji, while Sartell-St. Stephen’s Noah Hacker withstood the Lumberjacks’ late-game onslaught and compiled 34 stops.

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Bemidji next takes the ice against Detroit Lakes at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13, in DL.

Sartell-St. Stephen 5, Bemidji 3

SSS 4 0 1 -- 5

BHS 1 2 0 – 3

First period -- 1, SSS GOAL, Smith (Rieder), 4:47, SH; 2, SSS GOAL, Rieder (Colatrella, McCabe), 6:45, PP; 3, SSS GOAL, Testa (Stebbing), 7:00; 4, SSS GOAL, Testa (Bollinger), 9:29; 5, BHS GOAL, Mattfield (Yavarow), 10:04.

Second period -- 6, BHS GOAL, Mannausau (Mattfield), 4:28, 5v3; 7, BHS GOAL, Rupp (Coe), 7:32.

Third period -- 8, SSS GOAL, Testa, 16:43, SH, EN.

Saves -- Schaefer (BHS) 12; Hacker (SSS) 34.

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Bemidji senior Hunter Brodina (11) moves the puck during the first period against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji senior Casey Rupp (28) controls the puck during the second period against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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The Lumberjacks celebrate after sophomore Noah Mannausau scored a goal during the second period against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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