GIRLS HOCKEY: Bemidji outpaced by B/LF as special season ends in section quarters
"This group is going to really be remembered as kind of the cornerstones," Jacks head coach Mike Johnson said. "(They changed) the culture of our program and (created) that winning tradition.”
BEMIDJI -- It was a disappointing denouement for the Bemidji High School girls hockey team on Tuesday at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Capping a regular season where the Lumberjacks went 13-8-4 – their first winning record in ten years – fourth-seeded BHS hosted No. 5 Brainerd/Little Falls in the Section 8AA quarterfinals at the Bemidji Community Arena. The Jacks were seeking a berth in the section semifinals for the first time since 2015. But Brainerd/Little Falls – a team that reached the state tournament in 2022 – wasn’t going to just give it to them.
The Warriors, known more for defensive prowess than offensive explosiveness, surged onto the ice and scored four times in the first period. They didn’t let up, either, burying Bemidji under an avalanche of goals to win 7-3 and end the Jacks’ promising campaign prematurely.
“It really is a tough way to end a great season,” BHS head coach Mike Johnson said. “That first period, it was their experience and success from last year and expectation when they're going into a playoff game, they expect to win. And we had no players that had ever won a playoff game and several key players that had never played in a high school playoff game.
“I think it's going to serve us very well down the road. But yeah, a little bit of an unexpected outburst by Brainerd to put some pucks in the net, and we were not able to match that.”
Bemidji (13-9-4) got the first goal out of the starting gates, taking advantage of an early power play to go up 1-0 on MaKenna Dreher’s top-shelf strike at 5:15 in the opening frame. Brainerd/Little Falls responded with a frenzied flurry, though. Macy Peterson answered the bell first on the power play at 7:03, then Josie Kappes gave B/LF (14-9-3) the lead at 7:28.
With another flourish, the Warriors scored twice more within a 13-second span to complete the first-period deluge. Peterson picked up her second at 13:04, then Peyton LeMieur got a goal at 13:17 to put Brainerd/Little Falls up 4-1.
Peterson, who had scored one goal in her last six games, finished off a hat trick at 6:24 in the second, but the Lumberjacks had a rebuttal shortly thereafter. Millie Knott scored on a bouncing puck from the right point at 8:30, then Megan Berg swept in a power-play goal from the right slot at 11:56. All of a sudden, the Jacks were back in it, trailing just 5-3.
Yet the Warriors resumed their vice grip on the matchup in the final frame. Molly Pohlkamp put B/LF on top by three with her shot through traffic at 3:42, then LeMieur sealed it with her second of the game at 8:55.
The loss marked the end of the road for Bemidji’s six seniors – Annika Nelson, Kiera Nelson, Madyson Nistler, Elizabeth Oster, Sienna Swanberg and Bella Webb – who had struggled through nothing but losing seasons until the final year of their BHS careers. While they didn’t go out with the section tournament win they craved, the Jacks’ group of 12th-years set a new standard for their talented young understudies to chase moving forward.
“It was really neat (after the game),” Johnson said. “Kiera Nelson was the first one that spoke up and talked about how enjoyable the ride was and thanked the young players for their contributions, for helping us to have a winning season. Then Madyson Nistler echoed the same thing, said she loves everyone in the room and was so thankful that we were able to produce a winning season.
“… It was just really neat to hear their takes on that. That's kind of the whole mood in the room. The youngsters are thankful that the seniors were there to help guide them along the way. And I think this group is going to really be remembered as kind of the cornerstones. … This senior group graduating in 2023 will be long remembered for changing the culture of our program and creating that winning tradition.”
Brainerd/Little Falls 7, Bemidji 3
BLF 4 1 2 -- 7
BHS 1 2 0 -- 3
First period -- 1, BHS GOAL, Dreher (Nistler), 5:15, PP; 2, BLF GOAL, Peterson (LeMieur, Pohlkamp), 7:03, PP; 3, BLF GOAL, Kappes (Jendro, DeRosier), 7:28; 4, BLF GOAL, Peterson (unassisted), 13:04; 5, BLF GOAL, LeMieur (unassisted), 13:17.
Second period -- 6, BLF GOAL, Peterson (Thoma), 6:24; 7, BHS GOAL, Knott (Lundeen), 8:30; 8, BHS GOAL, Berg (Rupp, Knott), 11:56, PP.
Third period -- 9, BLF GOAL, Pohlkamp (LeMieur), 3:42; 10, BLF GOAL, LeMieur (Hagelie, Kappes), 8:55.
Saves -- Myhre (BHS) 21; Sawyer (BLF) 17.