Seventy miles of mostly forest and farmland along U.S. Highway 2 separate the towns of Bemidji and Grand Rapids.
That drive got a little longer for Bemidji on Tuesday, Jan. 26, as the Lumberjackes headed home with a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Thunderhawks.
It was just the second loss of the season for Bemidji, and the first since Dec 28. Both losses have come against Section 7AA teams.
“We got beat to every loose puck," Bemidji coach Wade Chiodo said. "They basically did what they wanted to do tonight."
“We were flat with no intensity and no energy. It was embarrassing to watch, and I’m not happy with our performance whatsoever.”
With the scored tied at 2 midway through the second period, Grand Rapids scoreed five unanswered goals; four of which came in the second period.
“We just put the puck in and we played good defense, and we played our game,” Grand Rapids forward Travis Underwood said.
Halfway through the second period the Thunderhawks took a 3-2 lead off a Christian Pearson goal. Three minutes later Jordan Stejskal scored his first of two goals to give Grand Rapids a 4-2 lead.
Then with just under four minutes left in the period Matt How scored to make it 5-2. With 54 seconds left in the second period Underwood scored a power-play goal to make it 6-2.
“It was nice to see that we kind of exploded,” Grand Rapids coach Bruce LaRoque said. “We played a great tempo in the first period. The teams were kind of feeling each other out, and I don’t think anything changed. We just moved our feet and created some space for ourselves.”
Grand Rapids wanted to make sure that it didn’t get caught off guard and let the Lumberjacks back into the game in the third period. Bemidji, meanwhile, was simply looking for something positive to build on.
“We’ve really got to finish this period as best we can and start tomorrow and start roiling again,” Bemidji’s Eric Hernesman said about the the Lumberjacks' third-period strategy.
The third period was scoreless until Stejskal scored his second goal of the game with 15 seconds left.
“I think we got a little too full of ourselves,” Hernesman said. “We’ve been on a roll lately and we really need to regroup after this loss and start to play like we should be for a state tournament bound team.”
Grand Rapids outshot Bemidji 11-5 in the final period and overall 34-22.
“It’s a great win and we knew Bemidji was going to be a very strong team,” LaRoque said. “We’ve had a target the front of our shirts for quite some time now, and they come out and play very physical. The nice thing is that our guys came out and played three strong periods.”
The win was Grand Rapids’ third straight since dropping back-to-back games to Hermantown and Duluth East. Bemidji hadn’t lost since the first game of the Duluth Heritage Holiday Classic again Cloquet/Esko/Carlton – also a Section 7AA school.
“It was a really big win,” Underwood said. “We lost to Hermantown and then these guys beat them. Now we beat Bemidji so it looks really good. I thought we played a really good game.”
1. Charlie Roy, Grand Rapids
Roy assisted on three of Grand Rapids’ goals, setting up many of the game scoring plays and making several key defensive plays. After his three point night, Roy now has eleven points on the season.
2. Eric Hernesman, Bemidji
Hernesman figured in on both Lumberjack goals by getting a goal and an assist. Hernesman’s goal tied the game at two goals apiece before the Thunderhawks went on to score five unanswered. Hernesman now has eleven points on the season.
3. Dom DeGuiseppi, Grand Rapids
DeGuiseppi stopped twenty of twenty-two shots en route to a 7-2 win. DeGuiseppi only stopped the first four of six but then stopped the next sixteen to keep Bemidji off the score sheet. DeGuiseppi is now 11-1 on the season.