BEMIDJI — The Bemidji High School boys hockey team closed its regular season with a 4-1 win over Thief River Falls at the Bemidji Community Arena Friday night.
The affair between top-10 schools (the Lumberjacks are No. 9 in Class AA, the Prowlers No. 6 in Class A) was much closer than the score suggests as it remained a one-goal game until the final four minutes.
“Thief River is a tough team,” Bemidji head coach Wade Chiodo said. “They don’t give you much and especially in the third period, our game really went up a few notches and it was fun to watch and I was just happy for the kids.”
The Lumberjacks end the regular season with a 21-2-2 record and have a first-round bye in next week’s Section 8AA playoffs.
“We had a great regular season,” Chiodo said. “They put a lot of effort and now the real season starts here in a week and these kids are prepared and ready to go.”
Rocky Copiskey, who finished with three points on the night, scored from the slot off a crisp pass from Jack Johnson to give the Lumberjacks a 1-0 lead at the 4:05 mark of the first. Either Copiskey or Johnson played a part in all four goals for the Jacks.
Bemidji had two power plays in the opening frame but were unable to convert on either opportunity.
The Copiskey-Johnson line had more quality scoring opportunities in the middle frame but TRF netminder Kade Nelson stopped them early on.
Matt Fitzgerald made several great stops on a TRF power play early in the period as the Prowlers spent much time on the man advantage in the period.
The Prowlers went on the power play with under six minutes left in the second after Nick Leitner was called for roughing.
On the power play, Ethan Johnson’s shot went high and off the crossbar for the game-tying goal. The goal was Johnson’s 40th of the season, the fourth-best mark in the state.
Leitner went to the box again for tripping less than a minute later as the Lumberjacks attempted to kill off another penalty.
Copiskey found an opening and charged across open ice for a shorthanded, breakaway goal to regain the lead for Bemidji with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the frame.
TRF nearly tied it again in the final seconds of the second as a shot rang off the post, but the Lumberjacks went to the third period with a 2-1 lead.
Bemidji out-shot TRF 15-3 in the third but it took until the 13:02 mark for them to strike again when Jack Johnson fired a puck from near the blue line to give Bemidji some needed insurance as the Lumberjacks went up 3-1.
Two minutes later, Johnson, who notched three points in the game, found Cole Hartje on the odd man rush for a goal that sealed the 4-1 win.
Bemidji’s next game will be in the Section 8AA tournament semifinals. The Lumberjacks will host the winner of No. 4 St. Michael-Albertville and No. 5 Roseau at the Bemidji Community Arena next Saturday, Feb. 20.
“I think we just need to stick to our game,” Alex Pollock said. “We know how to play. We’ve been there last year. If we play like that, I think we have a good shot.”
Bemidji 4, Thief River Falls 1
BHS 1 1 2 — 4
TRF 0 1 0 — 1
First period — 1. BHS, Copiskey (Johnson) 4:05
Second period — 2. TRF, Johnson (power play) (Magnusson), 3. BHS, Copiskey (shorthanded) (unassisted) 14:40
Third period — 4. BHS, Johnson (Copiskey) 13:02, 5. BHS, Cole Hartje (Johnson) 15:15
Goalies — BHS: M. Fitzgerald 13, TRF: Nelson: 33