A late goal by Mercury Bischoff at 13:47 of the third period proved to be the difference as Grand Rapids/Greenway handed Bemidji girls hockey a 3-2 loss in the Jacks’ home opener on Tuesday at the Bemidji Community Arena.
There was little to separate the two northern rivals on a night of back-and-forth play that featured a flowing stretch of hockey without a whistle in the opening 6:59 of play. It was only 33 seconds later that the Jacks struck the opening goal of the night on a close-quarters poke by Sammy Nistler after she and Makenna Dreher had fashioned a two-on-one breakout.
Only 59 seconds passed before the Lightning found a tying goal, and it was their top returning scorer Bischoff who roofed a wrister past Payton Weidemann from the low slot.
Penalties started to stack up for both teams as the first period flipped over to the second, with the Lumberjacks also obtaining a small stretch of 5-on-3 play. It was during the second power play that Grand Rapids/Greenway found a shorthanded breakout chance for Bischoff that drew a smart glove stop from Weidemann.
The visiting Lightning took advantage of a power play chance of their own at 6:06 of the second. Just after a 5-on-3 had expired, they retained possession off a superb Weidemann save and were able to find Opal Anderson on the edge of the crease for a jammed goal at close range.
Bemidji put together solid threats during the second and early part of the third, but could not find a way past GRG goaltender Riley Toivonen–including on clean looks for Naomi Johnson and Megan Berg on breaks in the slot.
Berg was on hand to find the Jacks a tying goal midway through the third period, one-timing a close shot past Toivonen at 8:51 after linemates Johnson and Bailey Rupp had fed her the puck.
The game nearly swung in Bemidji’s favor mere moments later with a quick wrist shot from defender Millie Knott that rang off the crossbar and flew over the net.
The Lumberjacks looked to have another major momentum swing when a Weidemann denial on Molly Pierce’s breakaway chance preceded a penalty against the Lightning at center ice.
But the power play would again prove to be fruitless, and Grand Rapids/Greenway seized on an extended spell of offensive zone possession by finding Bischoff on the back door for a one-time finish that decided the game with just over three minutes to play.
Late efforts to again tie the score were muted for the Lumberjacks, who were edged 25-22 in shots and went 0-for-4 on the power play compared to GRG’s 1-for-3 performance.
Bemidji (1-1) will return to the road for a matchup with Thief River Falls on Thursday at 7:15pm at Cardin-Hunt Arena in Red Lake Falls.