First-time varsity scorers Cael Knutson and Tyson Bjornerud provided the goals in the first and third periods for Bemidji to twice come from a goal down in an entertaining 2-2 tie with Mounds View in the boys hockey season opener Friday evening at First National Arena.
The Lumberjacks kicked off the new season with several fast, fluid shifts but ran into trouble with back-to-back penalties–the second featuring the game’s first goal at 5:23 of the first on a rebound by Mathias Durant of the Mustangs.
Bemidji answered back moments after the expiration of its first power play chance of the night with Knutson firing in a loose puck out of battle in front of the net.
More pressure came at the end of the period from the hosts, but chances for both Hunter Brodina and Nick Yavarow went begging on a 2-on-1 rush that could not break down Mounds View goaltender Aidan Petrich.
Penalty trouble again struck the Lumberjacks midway through the second on consecutive minor penalties just moments apart that left Bemidji trying to kill off a 5-on-3 power play for the Mustangs. Senior goaltender Jackson Hill came up with the stops needed to see off the danger without harm.
At the other end, Petrich again stifled the Lumberjacks late in the period on a power play flurry that came right up against the end of the second period.
Hill was called into urgent action early on in the third period when the Mustangs fashioned a breakaway that the Bemidji netminder was able to deny in somewhat unconventional fashion falling backward into his net.
The Mustangs still managed to go back in front at 9:43 of the third with a tight-angle shot from Johnny Conlin that squeezed under Hill.
Bemidji looked in danger of losing its composure moments after the goal when a stoppage of play for roughing led to coincidental minor penalties for both teams. But the Lumberjacks answered the goal with one of their own a mere 28 seconds of game time later when Bjornerud followed up a denial of Yavarow to jam in the rebound for another tying marker.
Despite good pressure, the Lumberjacks could not find a go-ahead tally in the game’s final minutes setting up a tense and physical overtime that saw both teams take another penalty.
Goaltenders Hill and Petrich went back and forth with big stops in the extra frame, with Bemidji’s senior shutting down a big power play chance with a kick save.
Petrich answered at the other end of the ice by keeping out a series of opportunities for the Jacks to end the game.
Perhaps the most important stop of the night came on a sprawling denial by Hill when Mounds View worked a breakaway chance through forward Wyatt Witham.
The final shot tally finished at 37-30 in Bemidji’s favor, with Hill posting 28 saves. The Lumberjacks went 0-for-5 on the power play while Mounds View finished 1-for-6.
Bemidji will head on the road immediately tomorrow for a visit to the St. Cloud Crush at 7:15pm. Pregame from the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex will be at 7 on KBUN-FM 104.5 and Lumberjacks1 at kbunsportsradio.com.
Postgame interview with Bemidji assistant coach Vinny Huerd: