Bemidji State hockey: Beavers fight back for a tie in final CHA game
This certainly wasn't the way the Bemidji State envisioned closing out College Hockey America play.
After a tough and emotional loss to Niagara Friday, the Beavers had a quick turnaround and posted a 3-3 overtime tie against Robert Morris in a game that looked both in the bag and out of reach several times.
The Beavers (23-9-4) scored the lone goal in the first period and carried a 1-0 advantage through two periods. But then Robert Morris turned things around, scoring three goals in 2:16 early in the third to gain what looked to be an insurmountable lead.
The Beavers weren't done, however. Bemidji State answered with a pair of goals 53 seconds apart late in the third to tie the game at 3-3.
Both teams had golden opportunities to score the game winner down the stretch on the power play - the Beavers at the end of regulation and the Colonials in closing out the overtime session.
But the game ended in the 3-3 tie.
"I never make excuses and I never will as a coach," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "That said - we were dead (Saturday). It's so tough playing a game like this. To come back and play in the afternoon after losing a touch, emotional game the that had a lot on the line the night, well, it's a very tough thing to do.
"I've been involved in a lot of games like this in the past. It's very difficult."
The Beavers broke through on the special teams right off the bat, scoring a power play goal just 1:04 after the first penalty of the game was called. With RMU's Trevor Lewis off for holding, junior forward Ryan Cramer battled for some open ice in the front of the net, took a perfect pass from behind the net by Tyler Lehrke and scored past RMU goalie Eric Levine at 12:49.
It was the only scoring of the opening period. Both teams looked to be trying to shake off the effects of tough losses the night before.
The Beavers had control of the puck for long stretches and ended with a 13-7 shot advantage. Freshman Jordan George just missed on a great scoring chance shortly after Cramer's goal, but rang the puck off the pipe.
There was no scoring in the second period, one which again saw the Beavers controlling play for long stretches. George had another great opportunity at the 11:00 mark, parked at the near post with a wide open net in front. The puck slid off his stick, however, and went wide.
Chris McKelvie also had a great chance a few minutes later. Levine went out of the crease to control the puck in the corner with Robert Morris on the power play. McKelvie raced to the corner and grabbed the puck, and tried to beat Levine back to the net.
His wraparound attempt was stopped by Levine, who dove and extended his stick just in time to make the huge save.
Robert Morris then stole the show early in the third. JC Velasquez scored on a rebound off a shot from Furman South at 3:43. The, 48 seconds, later Brandon Blandina made it 2-1 on an other rebound. And just 1:128 after that Nathan Longpre scored on a blast from the far circles to make it 3-1.
That was the end of the night for BSU starting goalie Dan Bakala as Serratore used the age old strategy of replacing the goalie in order to ignite a spark with his team.
Things were not looking good for the Beavers. They kept battling, however, and made a comeback.
With the teams skating 4 on 4, the Colonials turned over the puck in the BSU offensive zone with Jamie MacQueen getting control in the high slot. He got off a big shot that Levine stopped. But the rebound went out to Ben Kinne who scored at 14:03.
The Beavers tied things up the very next shift. Still playing 4 on 4, the game tying play started when sophomore defender Brad Hunt got off a big shot from the point. Levine again made the save, but Hunt gathered in his own rebound, faked another shot and made a pass down low to Ian Lowe who was just off the crease. Lowe rapped in a one-timer at 14:56 to tie the game.
"The guys were opportunistic," Serratore reported. "Once Kinne scored, the next line just fed off that and came up with another nice play. People thought we were dead in the water when RMU went ahead 3-1, but our guys showed a lot of resiliency.""
The Beavers had a great chance to steal the game in regulation. Velasquez was called for contact to the head roughing with just 2:08 remaining. The Beavers went on the power play, but couldn't get the game winner.
Robert Morris had the same opportunity in overtime. The Beavers' Chris Peluso was called for hooking with just 1:58 left in overtime and BSU skated shorthanded the rest of the way.
The BSU penalty kill stood tall, however, and kept the Colonials off the board to record the tie.
"It was hairy at the end of overtime," Serratore reported. "There were many times we could have lost the game, but we didn't. The guys showed character and I'm real proud of them. We wanted to win, no doubt. But it was a good tie."
The Beavers will now have to wait until March 21 to find out their NCAA postseason fate. The immediate impact of the tie with RMU dropped the Beavers to seventh in the Ratings Percentage Index (.5450) and seventh in Pairwise, before the Saturday evening games were played.
BSU's Pairwise ranking can and will change, but most national experts agreed even before the CHA Tournament that the Beavers had locked up a spot in the NCAA field.
"I think it's going to happen," Serratore reported. "I don't know, but none of us know. I told our guys I don't want to see them until Wednesday when we'll have a light practice.
"On Thursday, we're going to start preparing to win an NCAA regional."