Third-period pressure failed to yield a tying goal for Bemidji boys hockey, as the Lumberjacks lost their regular season finale against Thief River Falls 3-1 on Thursday evening at the Bemidji Community Arena.
The game’s opening period was a scoreless one despite both teams generating decent chances. Senior Andrew Johanns had eight saves in the first, including shutting down TRF’s high-scoring defensemen Evan Bushy.
The Prowler senior got the game’s opening goal 2:35 into the second period, working his way around Johanns’ net to score with the goaltender unable to slide across in time.
Bemidji’s answer came from junior Grant Declusin, who scored a tip-in at 5:25 of the period to pick up his first varsity goal and tie the score.
Johanns kept the game tied with a big shutdown save after a defensive zone turnover led to a good chance for the visitors.
The Prowlers went back in front with the eventual game-winner at 10:47 of the second. Working on the power play, Kaden Bakken’s shot skittered across the slot to Grant Hartmann, who cashed in on the weak side for a tap-in.
Chances were still created later in the period by the Jacks, but they lacked a final finish against Noah Rupprecht. Ethan Maish had a good opportunity coming through the slot that was unable to be directed on goal.
Despite generating some opportunities in the third, the Lumberjacks had difficulty getting off the perimeter in the offensive zone for good chances, including on a power play.
Late in the period, following killing off a Prowler power play, Johanns was brought to the bench for an extra attacker in a desperate attempt to get a tying goal. As Connor Savard picked up a loose puck in the offensive zone, a big collision around his head knocked the defensman to the ice, allowing Tucker Skime to take possession and skate the other way for an empty-net goal.
Savard had to be helped from the ice following the collision, marking the second player to need such assistance in the game after TRF’s Blake Biermaier suffered a heavy collision in the corner boards during the second period.
Johanns stopped 25 shots in the defeat, facing 27 of the Prowlers’ 28 shots on net. Rupprecht had 23 saves in the victory for Thief River Falls, who will be the #3 seed in the Section 8A playoffs next week.
The loss leaves the Lumberjacks at 3-21-1 overall this season ahead of Tuesday’s Section 8AA quarterfinal game. #8 Bemidji will travel to #1 Moorhead for a 6pm game, with pregame at 5:45 on KBUN-FM 104.5 and KBUN1 online.
Postgame interview with Bemidji assistant coach Bazil Zuehlke: