The Bemidji High School boys’ hockey team’s return to the Class AA state tournament finds the Lumberjacks facing a familiar foe.
The Lumberjacks (23-2-2), who defeated rival Moorhead in a thrilling overtime Section 8AA title game to reach their second consecutive state tournament, earned the No. 5 seed and will open the quarterfinals at 8 p.m. Thursday night against No. 4-seeded Grand Rapids (21-6-1) at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“At the end of the day, you get to the state tournament, no matter who you play they’re gonna be a good team,” Bemidji head coach Wade Chiodo said. “I don’t get into the seedings as much as everybody else does. I just worry about winning the game and winning that first game, whoever we have to play.”
The teams skated to a 1-1 tie in late November. The Thunderhawks are the lone team in the field that the Lumberjacks have faced this season.
Bemidji was ranked No. 9 in the final Class AA poll while Grand Rapids was right behind at No. 10.
The Thunderhawks, the top seed in the Section 7AA tournament, also needed some late-game drama to beat No. 2 seed Duluth East 6-5 on Thursday night. Alex Adams scored with six seconds remaining in regulation of the section title game to secure Grand Rapids’ first trip to the state tournament since 2007.
Mitchell Mattson was Grand Rapids’ regular season leading scorer with 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists) and has continued to excel in the postseason. The North Dakota recruit had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in three section games for the Thunderhawks. Teammate Gavin Hain also has 11 points (five goals, six assists) through three postseason games.
Brady Tatro leads Bemidji with five points (three goals, two assists) in two postseason games, including a goal and an assist in the section title game.
The winner advances to an 8 p.m. semifinal next Friday against either No. 1 Eden Prairie (19-7-2) or unseeded Anoka (18-9).
The loser will compete in a consolation bracket game at noon Friday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. The state title game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday.
Minnesota Class AA
State Hockey pairings
Quarterfinals Thursday at Xcel Energy Center
• No. 2 Stillwater (27-1-1) vs. Farmington (18-8-1), 11 a.m.
• No. 3 Wayzata (19-8-1) vs. Burnsville (16-10-2), 1 p.m.
• No 1 Eden Prairie (19-7-2) vs. Anoka(18-9-0), 6 p.m.
• No. 4 Grand Rapids (21-6-1) vs. No. 5 Bemidji (23-2-2), 8 p.m.
Semifinals Friday at Xcel Energy Center
• Thursday afternoon winners, 6 p.m.
• Thursday evening winners, 8 p.m.
Consolation semifinals Friday at Mariucci Arena
• Thursday afternoon losers, 10 a.m.
• Thursday evening losers, noon
• Championship, 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center
• Third place, 4 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center
• Fifth place, noon at Mariucci Arena
The BHS Lumberjacks receive their plaque for winning the Section 8AA title game after Wednesday night's 4-3 overtime win over Moorhead.(Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)