On Tuesdays and Thursdays, KBUN Sportsradio presents a “Lumberjack Throwback”, as we recall a memorable Bemidji High School game from recent years through archived highlights and interviews. It’s a day late, but today we once again remember a Section title game classic that went to overtime…
Bemidji boys hockey’s 29-year wait for a return to the State tournament had ended the season before with a 2-0 victory over Moorhead in the Section 8AA championship. With 10 seniors in the squad for the 2015-16 campaign, the hope was not only for a return to State, but for even more success to follow.
After finishing runners-up the season before, the Spuds brought a very young team into the new season. Proof of this was underlined in a 5-0 victory for the Lumberjacks in the teams’ first meeting on Dec. 1, 2015. Moorhead would sputter to a 5-6 start to the season before turning the corner to go 11-4 in games in 2016. With several talented sophomores getting opportunities and a much-needed solution to goaltending, the run included a 3-2 OT victory on home ice against Bemidji on Jan. 12.
The Jacks tied only two games and lost two–both in overtime–during the regular season, with three strong lines of forwards, a solid D-core, and excellent goaltending making the team’s big goals at the start of the season come into clear focus. A rematch with Moorhead was secured with the top-seed Jacks winning 4-0 at home against St. Michael-Albertville in the semifinal, while the Spuds topped Rogers 4-2. The showdown would return to Thief River Falls’ Ralph Engelstad Arena for the second-straight season on Feb. 24, 2016.
A tight first period ended goalless with both teams even at eight shots and Moorhead displaying the growth it had made collectively as the season progressed. Just over six minutes into the second period, the Spuds made the tight start play to their favor, as sophomore Carter Randklev knocked a rebound past Matt Fitzgerald after the sophomore netminder made the initial save for a 1-0 lead.
It did not take long for the Lumberjacks to reply. A Moorhead penalty set up the Lumberjacks’ potent powerplay for an opportunity, and they fed senior defenseman–and future BSU Beaver–Nick Leitner at the point for a one-time rip to tie the game at 12:25.
Tied at 1-1, the game was set up perfectly for a thrilling third period. Bemidji seized the initiative at 5:52 of the third, as winger Alex Pollock flew into the Moorhead zone and danced the puck between the legs before firing over the Spuds’ Lance Leonard.
Once again, a quick answer came to a go-ahead goal. Moorhead provided it through another underclassmen in Jack Stetz, who took hold of a loose puck on a rebound to beat Fitzgerald at 7:21.
Goals kept on flying in as the halfway point of the third period approached. Back on the powerplay and on a rush, Brady Tatro made it two straight years scoring in the section final just 1:14 after the Spuds had tied the game.
With the section title in sight, Bemidji’s slim 3-2 lead immediately became in jeopardy with concurrent minor penalties at 9:36 against Chase Hartje for cross-checking and Jack Johnson for tripping. Faced with killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3 powerplay, the Lumberjacks succeeded for just 50 seconds before Jack Fahrendorf tied the game again.
The Jacks’ navigated the rest of the penalty kill, but despite a powerplay chance of their own up to the end of regulation, no further goals meant it would take overtime to determine the section champion. The extra period began with the conclusion of the powerplay and several tight early shifts.
It was out of these exchanges that an innocuous clear created the game-winner. A puck played through center ice beyond the Spud defense in the midst of a change had icing waved off, gave Bemidji freshman Hunter Olson the chance to chase the loose puck down behind Leonard’s net. In front, senior Tyler McNamara was waiting on hand at 3:05 of overtime for the moment that would send Bemidji to State once again.
Postgame interview with head coach Wade Chiodo:
Postgame interview with assistant coach Eric Monsrud:
Postgame interview with senior Tyler McNamara:
The Lumberjacks’ return to the State tournament came with the #5 seed this time–but also a very controversial matchup with #4-seed and fellow north rival Grand Rapids. This time, overtime went against Bemidji in a 3-2 defeat. However, the Lumberjacks brought home the Class AA Consolation title with victories over Anoka and Farmington the following two days to end a remarkable 25-3-2 season.