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BOYS HOCKEY: Bemidji traps Prowlers, dominates puck in season's first win

The Lumberjacks controlled the action against Thief River Falls on Tuesday at the Bemidji Community Arena, scoring once in each of the first two periods and compiling a huge shots-on-goal advantage to power their first win of the year.

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The Lumberjacks celebrate after sophomore Joey Fankhanel scored a goal to put Bemidji up 1-0 in the first period against Thief River Falls on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School boys hockey team was hungry for a victory.

The Lumberjacks had gone skate-to-skate with Moorhead – the best team in Section 8AA last season – and stayed within striking distance through each of their first three contests, yet each concluded as an addition to the loss column.

No longer. BHS controlled the action against Thief River Falls on Tuesday at the Bemidji Community Arena, scoring once in each of the first two periods and compiling a huge shots-on-goal advantage to power a 2-0 win.

"There's nothing like winning,” BHS head coach Pete Stahnke said. “The guys in the locker room, this was all them tonight. They really worked hard, and they went with the game plan that we had. Kept it simple, got pucks to the net. We got a tip and a rebound, so it worked out well for us.”

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Bemidji junior Austin Coe (2) controls the puck during the second period against Thief River Falls on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Joey Fankhanel scored first for the Jacks (1-3) off a Hunter Brodina feed between the circles at 6:24 in the first period, then Austin Coe doubled the lead with a deflected shot at 10:52 in the second.

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Coe’s goal was the first of his varsity career and sparked a riotous celebration on and near the BHS bench. The special puck was taken off the ice for safekeeping, and Coe savored a moment he’ll never forget.

“It's amazing,” Coe said. “Hugging your friends after a goal and then going through the line, it's awesome.”

Throughout the game, Bemidji maintained the lion's share of puck possession, often getting multiple shots on goal in a short period of time. Eventually, a few of those efforts found nylon, and the Lumberjacks took control of the contest. On the whole, BHS finished with a 37-14 edge in attempts on net.

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The Lumberjacks go after the puck during the second period against Thief River Falls on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“We matched lines pretty well, and it easily could have been, I don’t know, 6-0,” Stahnke said. “We just had some opportunities we missed on. But a win's a win, and moving forward, I think we’ve got to capitalize on some of those loose pucks in the future.”

Alex Schaefer finished with 14 saves for the Jacks to pick up a shutout, while Conner Roff stopped 35 for the Prowlers (2-2). Though Schaefer didn’t have a ton of work, Stahnke thought he performed well under pressure in critical moments.

“I don't think he saw a lot of shots, but the shots he did see were very difficult,” Stahnke said. “And he came up huge for us, especially on their power play. He didn't give them any momentum by giving up one there, and he came out and challenged really well. He's a big man. If he challenges, there's not much net to shoot at. He played his game tonight, and he got a goose egg for it.”

Moving forward, the Lumberjacks seek to build on the good vibes and confidence this initial win has given them. Their next opportunity to do so will come against a Sartell-St. Stephen team that plays a style reminiscent of TRF's.

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Bemidji junior goaltender Alex Schaefer (33) deflects the puck during the second period against Thief River Falls on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“We're going to see somewhat of a similar team (on) Friday,” Stahnke said. “So this goes a long ways. Just letting the guys know if they play the way they should play, keep it simple, good things will happen for them.”

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“It took us a while to get started in the beginning of the season,” Coe said. “We weren't together, I don't think, but we came together in the end. And this game, we really showed it. … If we play the game we played tonight, we should be winning way more.”

BHS returns to the ice against the Sabres at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, back at the BCA.

Bemidji 2, Thief River Falls 0

TRF 0 0 0 -- 0

BHS 1 1 0 -- 2

First period -- 1, BHS GOAL, J. Fankhanel (Brodina, Neadeau), 6:24.

Second period -- 2, BHS GOAL, Coe (Rupp), 10:52.

Third period -- No scoring.

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Saves -- Schaefer (BHS) 14; Roff (TRF) 35.

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Bemidji senior Nick Yavarow (5) fights for control of the puck during the first period against Thief River Falls on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji senior Gunnar Olson (15) moves the puck during the second period against Thief River Falls on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji senior Cael Knutson (22) fights for the puck during the first period against Thief River Falls on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 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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