BEMIDJI — Despite being held scoreless for the better part of 34 minutes on Tuesday night against Roseau, the Bemidji High School boys hockey team knew it was just a matter of time before the goals started coming.
“I’m sure all of us were pretty confident,” senior captain Nick Leitner said. “We were buzzing the whole way through and really dominating. We weren’t worried at all.”
Leitner’s wrist shot from the point with 51 seconds to play in the second period helped the Lumberjacks break through, and after the intermission the team came out and scored four more times en route to a 5-0 win over their Mariucci Conference and Section 8AA rivals at Bemidji Community Arena.
“I knew it was going to go in eventually,” BHS head coach Wade Chiodo said. “When you’re getting that many opportunities, the puck is going to find the back of the net. Nicky’s goal was big for us, getting the blood flowing a little bit and getting the kids at ease.”
The Lumberjacks (7-0-2) outshot the Rams 45-14 in the game but it wasn’t until Leitner’s goal that Bemidji was able to break Roseau goalie Tanner Landman, who stopped 15 shots in the first period and 17 shots in the second before Leitner’s shot finally trickled through.
“Their goalie played well, but we were flying tonight,” Chiodo said. “What I was most happy about is we were good with pucks. We made high-percentage plays. We weren’t trying to do too much, we weren’t making it too complex.”
It was an encouraging victory for the Lumberjacks, who struggled in their past two games against East Grand Forks and Brainerd. The Jacks tied EGF 1-1 while they had to rally from a 4-3 deficit against Brainerd before earning a 6-4 win.
“The Brainerd and East Side games, we took a couple steps backwards,” Chiodo said. “But tonight I thought we were playing to what we should be playing like. We still have things to improve on but I was happy with the effort.”
“You’re going to have days where you’re not going to play to your best ability,” Leitner added. “Today was just different. We were just buzzing out there compared to our last two games.”
Leitner’s goal, assisted by Josh Lusby and Cole Hartje, gave the Lumberjacks the 1-0 lead heading into the final period, but it wasn’t until midway through the third that Bemidji ran away with the game for good.
The Rams (3-5-1) killed two early BHS penalties before Matt Gregg made it 2-0 at the 7 minute, 58 second mark. Hunter Olson fed Gregg during a 2-on-1 breakout and Gregg capitalized to beat Landman.
Less than a minute later, the Lumberjacks scored again.
This time, Alex Pollock deked a Roseau defensemen out of his skates then passed to Rocky Copiskey, who took a shot on Landman. The puck bounced off Landman’s pad for a juicy rebound and Brady Tatro slammed it home to make it 3-0.
Olson scored one of his own at 12:15, redirecting the puck past Landman on Chase Hartje’s shot to make it 4-0, then 30 seconds later Jack Johnson took a shot then bowled over Landman as the puck was going in to make it 5-0.
At that point Landman left the game in favor of William Woolever, but the Lumberjacks didn’t score again.
Bemidji’s Matt Fitzgerald earned the shutout victory in net, making 14 saves. Landman ended up with 40 saves.
The Lumberjacks are off until after Christmas, when they’ll take part in Duluth Marshall Hilltopper Holiday Classic. BHS takes on Cloquet-Esko-Carlton in the first round next Tuesday, Dec. 29. The field also features a strong field with hosts Duluth Marshall, Hermantown and Delano.
Bemidji takes an undefeated record into the tournament.
“Being undefeated is awesome,” Leitner said. “We’re playing really well right now, so it’s great. Let’s see if we can keep things rolling. We’re confident after a win like this.”
Bemidji 5, Roseau 0
Ros 0 0 0 — 0
Bem 0 1 4 — 5
First Period — No scoring.
Second Period — 1, Bem, Leitner (Lusby, Ch.Hartje), 16:09.
Third Period — 2, Bem, Gregg (Olson) 7:58; 3, Bem, B.Tatro (Copiskey, Pollock), 8:45; 4, Bem, Olson (Co.Hartje), 12:15; BHS, Johnson (Lusby), 12:40.
Bemidji’s Cole Hartje (25) and Roseau’s Nick Geroy (14) battle for the puck during the first period of a game Tuesday in Bemidji. Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer