BEMIDJI -- The Green Wave outshot Bemidji High School boys hockey team 7-6 in the first period on Thursday, but the Jacks took advantage of their few chances and leapt out to a 4-0 lead after the first 17 minutes on the way to a 4-1 win.
“We’ve been talking a lot about getting good starts in games,” BHS head coach Eric Monsrud said. “In order for us to be great, you have to have a start, and that’s one of the things I’ve been trying to pass on to the club.”
Bemidji held Class A No. 5 East Grand Forks (9-7-1) scoreless until the 12:38 mark of the third period, but the damage was done and the Jacks improved to 9-8 on the season.
Of Bemidji’s four first-period goals, three of them were what fans would consider “pretty.”
“Give credit to our kids,” Monsrud said. “They were moving the puck, moving their feet, which got us into those positions, and we were able to capitalize and make some of those pretty goals.”
Senior forward Josh Baker opened the scoring just 1 minute, 31 seconds in. He snuck behind the EGF defense, took a pass from defenseman Casey McNamara, made a move and slid it five-hole for the goal.
The second goal was a “smurf line” special, coming off a two-on-one. Zak Justice skated down the right side, spun away from the defenseman and slid the puck left behind his back, right to the waiting stick of Andrew Dondelinger.
“In practice, we call it the smurf line: Me, Dondelinger and Leitner,” Justice said. “We got great chemistry. We just know where each other are, and I just knew Dondo was going to get that pass. I had faith in him and he just had a nice move and buried it.”
After Ryan Pogue tipped in a Tanner Hammitt shot for the 3-0 lead to chase EGF goalie Tucker Brown, Justice tallied one of his own. Assisted by Baker, he had to fight his way around what would have been a holding penalty, deked around the goalie and claimed the four-goal lead.
“It was just grit,” said Justice. “I wanted that goal more than they did. Coach preaches hard work and that was a hard-working goal. I just had to get to the net.”
The second and third periods were evenly matched, but the Green Wave couldn’t get enough shots by BHS goalie Matt Fitzgerald to put a dent in the deficit.
Having just lost to EGF 3-2 in overtime Dec. 19, this game, according to Monsrud and Justice, is a statement to how the team has improved over the last couple of weeks.
“It just goes to show that the second time we come around playing these teams, we’re a different team,” Monsrud said. “We have a mentality of, ‘We’re going to go play right till the end of the buzzer.’ These kids, they don’t have any quit in them, and I’m real proud of this group right now.”
“The Jacks are back,” Justice added. “We work well in practice, Fitzy’s going to keep us in every game, all the lines are clicking… All I (have to) say is the Jacks are back.”
Bemidji 4, East Grand Forks 1
BHS 4 0 0 -- 4
EGF 0 0 1 -- 1
First Period -- 1, BHS, Baker (McNamara) 1:31; 2, BHS, Dondelinger (Justice) 5:24; 3, BHS, Pogue (Tan. Hammitt) 9:23; 4, BHS, Justice (Baker) 14:23.
Second Period -- No Scoring.
Third Period -- 5, EGF, Beck (Stauss) 12:38.