By Micah Friez
BEMIDJI, Minn. — To the naked eye, there were no playoff implications at stake during Thursday’s game between the Bemidji High School boys hockey team and Thief River Falls.
Don’t tell that to the Lumberjacks.
Although BHS already knows its place in next week’s Section 8AA Tournament, Bemidji came up with a much-needed, 2-1 win over the Prowlers at the Bemidji Community Arena for a little boost heading into the postseason.
“We wanted to get that win,” Jacks head coach Eric Monsrud said. “Obviously you want to go into the playoffs on a high note. Getting a win in the last game of the regular season gives you the opportunity to go in on a high note.”
It started in the defensive zone for BHS (8-15-1), as goalie Broc Waldhausen stopped 30 of 31 TRF shots while the penalty kill unit went 6-for-6.
“Our best penalty killer is our goaltender. He played a really good game tonight,” Monsrud said. “The guys in front of him cleared pucks, especially on the power play. … (They were) getting down and blocking shots. We were doing some of the dirty work, which was making us successful.”
It did take the Lumberjacks a bit to find their footing, though. Once they did, Thief River Falls (14-8-3) pulled out the rug from under them.
The Prowlers controlled the pace early on, and once Bemidji started to level the playing field, TRF struck when Brockston Masseth raced through the defense for a breakaway goal.
BHS applied pressure late in the period, and although it didn’t lead to an immediate game-tying goal, the Jacks finally cashed in 45 seconds into the second frame.
Wyatt Halvorson buried a loose puck to finish off a scramble around the net, tying things up at 1-1. Ethan Maish and Bjorn Jorgenson had assists on the play.
Bemidji poured on chances from there — including an open window for an Gage Mostad wrister and a late rebound opportunity for Chase Mock — but the deadlock held entering the third.
Three minutes into the third, Mostad hit the post on a rocket of a shot. Though he was denied the go-ahead goal there, he scored on the power play a minute later by netting a rebound after a Nathan Mannausau slap shot.
“Our two goals came from being around the net. That’s where we’re going to score our goals,” Monsrud said. “We’re not a team that’s flashy and is going to score a lot of goals on the line rush. The kids just mucked it up and… played strong in front of our net and in front of their net. That was kind of the difference.”
The Prowlers had two more power-play chances from there, but the Lumberjacks held firm to hang on for the win and snap a six-game losing streak.
“We were just a little bit better with the puck than we have been. We were making better decisions,” Monsrud said. “Yeah, we made some mistakes, but in the end, we were just making better plays than we had been before. I think that’s what the difference was. A little bit stronger on the puck.”
The Lumberjacks will head into the Section 8AA Tournament as the No. 6 seed, matching up with third-seeded Brainerd for a 7 p.m. showdown on Tuesday, Feb. 19, in Brainerd.
“We’re excited to take on Brainerd,” Monsrud said. “We’re going to prepare for it. We’ve got three days of practice to do it. Come Tuesday, we’re going to be ready to battle.”
TRF 1 0 0 — 1
BHS 0 1 1 — 2
First period — 1, TRF, Masseth (unassisted), 5:19.
Second period — 2, BHS, Halvorson (Maish, Jorgenson), 0:45.
Third period — 3, BHS, Mostad (Mannausau, Dondelinger), 3:59, PP.
Goalies (shots-saves) — BHS, Waldhausen (30-31); TRF Rupprecht (30-32).