BEMIDJI -- There wasn’t much at stake for the Bemidji High School boys hockey team on Thursday. The Section 8AA Tournament is all set, and so the regular season finale with Thief River Falls was more of a postseason tune-up than anything.
Nevertheless, BHS head coach Pete Stahnke still liked what he got out of his team in the ultimate 3-1 home loss.
“I thought, for the most part, we competed really well. That’s what we were looking for,” Stahnke said. “Thief’s a good team. They’ve battled Warroad and East Grand, so we’re right there. We’ve just got to put it all together, of course.”
The Lumberjacks held their own for most of the night and were in contention until an empty netter sealed the deal with 35 seconds remaining. Still, Bemidji fired off three shots on goal within the first 20 seconds of the game as part of a 10-8 advantage in the frame. The Prowlers (14-10) only separated to a 28-24 edge by night’s end.
“Thief’s got a really good goalie (in Noah Rupprecht), and it was hard to get one by him,” Stahnke said. “We moved the puck. I thought it was a pretty even game.”
Even so, the final result was familiar for BHS (3-21-1) in the end. The loss stuck the Jacks with their 11th in a row, and they finish the season with an 0-10 mark on their home ice -- their first winless home record since at least 2001-02.
A level first period played out scoreless, and so Evan Bushy broke the deadlock with his goal early in the second. As Bemidji goalie Andrew Johanns lunged forward to protect the near post, Bushy cooly glided behind the net for an easy wraparound at the 2:35 mark.
The lead didn’t last long, as Grant DeClusin answered back with his first career goal less than three minutes later. Connor Savard fired in a shot from outside the circle, and DeClusin was stationed in front of the net for a redirect that popped up and over Rupprecht’s shoulder.
“It’s great for Grant because he’s really been playing well,” Stahnke said of the goal. “He knows his role: going up and down the ice hard, getting in front of the net. That’s what he did tonight, and he got a goal because of his hard work.
“He’s a worker for us, and he’s got a good attitude. We’re lucky to have him.”
Grant Hartmann spoiled the moment at the 10:47 mark, however, restoring the Thief River Falls lead with a tic-tac-toe strike from close range for a 2-1 score through two.
Early in the third, DeClusin almost had the answer again. The junior winger steamrolled in on net for a partial breakaway, but Rupprecht denied him with a save that kept the Prowlers in front.
BHS even had a two-minute power play with seven minutes remaining, but TRF killed it without a threat.
The Lumberjacks pulled Johanns for the extra attacker with just over a minute to play, but Tucker Skime netted the game-clinching empty netter with 35 seconds left for the 3-1 final.
Johanns finished with 25 saves on 27 shots, and Rupprecht was 23-for-24. Thief River Falls went 1-for-3 on the power play while Bemidji was 0-for-2.
The Section 8AA Tournament begins for eighth-seeded BHS at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, at top-seeded Moorhead, where Stahnke said the team is going in with nothing to lose.
“Moorhead is going to be a tough matchup for us, but we’ve got to come out and compete against those guys,” he said. “We’ve just got to look at the little victories on the ice. Everything in the past is in the past.”
Thief River Falls 3, Bemidji 1
TRF 0 2 1 -- 3
BHS 0 1 0 -- 1
First period -- No scoring.
Second period -- 1, TRF, Bushy (unassisted), 2:35; 2, BHS, DeClusin (Savard, Marcotte), 5:25; 3, TRF, Hartmann (Bakken, Masseth), 10:47, PP.
Third period -- 4, TRF, Skime (unassisted), 16:25, EN.
Goalies (shots-saves) -- BHS, Johanns (25-27); TRF, Rupprecht (23-24).