BEMIDJI — In a battle of the undefeated, the Bemidji High School hockey team’s three third-period goals gave the Lumberjacks a come-from-behind victory over Brainerd on Saturday at the Bemidji Community Arena.
“I thought we grinded it out to be honest with you,” BHS coach Wade Chiodo said. “Brainerd did a good job of clogging us up and taking away lanes, and you gotta give them credit. But ultimately we found a way to get the W, and that’s what’s most important.”
Bemidji (6-0-2) was forced to start grinding early, as Brainerd (4-1-1) forward Sam Selisker grabbed a 1-0 lead just 12 seconds after the opening faceoff.
“It’s part of hockey,” Chiodo admitted. “Stuff is gonna happen, goals are gonna go in. It’s alright to get behind every once in awhile, see how your team responds, and I thought we responded well.”
The Jacks dominated most of the play for the rest of the period, but it wasn’t until after Cole Ball scored Brainerd’s second goal that Bemidji was able to make a statement on the scoreboard.
Eric Stout found Ball all alone in front of the BHS net for the easy tap-in.
Luckily for Bemidji, Warrior goalie Brady Mick made a mistake that gave the Jacks their first goal of the night.
BHS defenseman Chase Hartje dribbled a puck in on net, and Mick thought he covered it. But the puck was past him and Alex Pollock sent it home to make it 2-1.
A Brainerd penalty late in the first period gave Bemidji a chance to tie the game at 2-2. The Jacks hit two cross bars, but nothing crossed the Warriors’ goal line.
Brainerd regained the two-goal lead three and a half minutes into the middle period on a one-timed shot from Stout in front of the net.
Less than a minute later, Bemidji took a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind, and things weren’t looking good for the Jacks.
But it was still the Lumberjacks putting the pressure on the Warriors when Brainerd took a penalty for slashing the goalie behind the play.
Erik Fitzgerald scored during the 4-on-4 action on a shot from the point, and Pollock scored his second of the day on a shorthanded breakaway to tie the game at 3-3.
Just when it seemed like the Jacks were turning the game in their favor, something hockey doesn’t see often gave Brainerd the 4-3 lead.
Senior forward Josh Howieson took a shot hard and at least a foot over the Bemidji net. BHS goalie Matt Fitzgerald gloved it anyway, but the puck broke through its webbing and dropped straight down into the net.
The refs and team captains met after the play, wondering about a high stick. But when Fitzgerald went to the bench to get a new glove, it was clear what had happened — 4-3, Brainerd.
The turning point of the game came at the 7 minute, 15 second mark of the third period, when Brainerd took its own major penalty for checking from behind.
Rocky Copiskey scored 45 seconds into the power play on a shot from the slot through traffic, and the Jacks still had over four minutes left of power play time.
Senior forward Jack Johnson scored what would be the game winner three minutes later. Still on the man-advantage, he took a pass from Cole Hartje, and while being tripped by a Brainerd defenseman, he shot and beat Mick on the short side to make it 5-4 with six minutes left to play.
“Anytime you get a five-minute major, the old saying is that you gotta find a way to score goals on those, and we did,” Chiodo said. “On the one goal they got, actually our goalie’s glove broke and it went through his glove. It’s kind of a flukie deal, but ultimately we found a way and got the job done.”
Brainerd’s last good chance to tie the game came on a Cole Ball breakaway with five minutes left, but Fitzgerald closed the five-hole in time to keep it out of the net.
Perhaps out of frustration, Ball took a hooking penalty on the same play, which took away the momentum the Warriors had gained.
Another penalty with 2:09 left only allowed the Warriors to get back to 5-on-5 when they pulled their goalie with one minute left.
Copiskey scored his second goal of the night with 52 seconds left to make it 6-4, where it stayed until the buzzer.
The Lumberjacks host Roseau at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the BCA.
“We just regroup, come back and have a good practice Monday and get ready for the Rams on Tuesday,” said Chiodo.
Bemidji 6, Brainerd 4
Bem 1 2 3 — 6
Bra 2 2 0 — 3
First Period — 1, Bra, Selisker (Ball), 0:12; 2, Bra, Ball (Stout), 11:39; 3, Bem, Pollock (Ch. Hartje), 13:31
Second Period — 4, Bra, Stout (Ball), 3:25; 5, Bem, E. Fitzgerald (Leitner, Tatro), 6:38; 6, Bem, Pollock (E. Fitzgerald, Leitner), 8:13; 7, Bra, Howieson (Unassisted), 9:05.
Third Period — 8, Bem, Copiskey (Ch. Hartje), 8:00; 9, Bem, Johnson (Co. Hartje), 10:57; 10, Bem, Copiskey (Polock), 16:08.
Lumberjack junior Brady Tatro (19) leads the puck around the net in the first period of Saturday’s game against Brainerd High School at the Bemidji Community Arena. JILLIAN GANDSEY | BEMIDJI PIONEER