A two-goal lead entering the third period faded away for Bemidji boys hockey, which surrendered a tight-angle goal in overtime to lose 3-2 to Cloquet-Esko-Carlton on Friday evening at the Cloquet Area Recreation Center.
The two 10-win teams surged back and forth during the first period, keeping Bemidji goaltender Tate Metcalf active with a pad save to maintain the scoreless game.
Bemidji faced a significant moment in the first period when senior captain Nick Yavarow was forced to exit the game for a pair of shifts due to a collision on a shot. He would return later in the period and helped create a flurry of chances offensively.
Yavarow played a significant role in helping Bemidji take the lead in the final minute of the first period, feeding Wyatt Mattfield for a turnaround shot that came a few seconds after Bemidji had killed off a CEC power play.
The visiting Lumberjacks’ lines were noticeably adjusted to begin the second period when Yavarow could not continue for the rest of the game. Puck possession stayed with Cloquet for large stretches of the early minutes, but Bemidji steadily started to find more opportunities to test Logan Sickmann of CEC.
The lead grew to 2-0 at 10:19 of the second period when Max Fankhanel finished off a quick breakout created by Noah Mannausau and Dominic Arndt.
Cloquet started the third period in need of an answer and found it just over a minute into the final frame on a wrist shot by Patrick Dunaiski that beat Metcalf high.
Midway through the period, Dunaiski struck again to finish a CEC spell in the offensive zone that Bemidji was never able to fully clear.
Physical and decisive throughout, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton would finish the third period with a commanding 15-2 lead in shots and forced Metcalf into a series of stops to send the game to overtime.
Metcalf again was equal to the task for an important stop in the extra period as Cloquet continued to threaten.
The game-winning goal came at 5:10 of overtime with a touch of misfortune for Bemidji and reward for shooting frequency to Cloquet. Lucas Rauner carried the puck to the goal line and threw a shot across into the crease that caromed off the leg of Metcalf and into the net.
The 39-23 shots advantage for Cloquet was the heaviest margin against Bemidji this season, with Metcalf posting 36 stops.
Bemidji drops to 10-8 heading into a visit to Class A #1 and unbeaten Warroad on Tuesday evening at 7:30pm.