Bemidji State men's hockey: Beavers and Chargers play to 2-2 tie in regular season finale
Perhaps this is the way it was meant to be.
After over 25 years of epic men's hockey battles, Bemidji State and the University of Alabama-Huntsville played one last time as members of College Hockey America during the regular season at the Von Braun Center Saturday.
The game ended in a 2-2 overtime tie.
"They didn't tie us, we tied them," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "We had no legs the entire game and just couldn't get anything generated. Obviously, you want to win, but we'll take the tie."
The No. 8 Beavers (23-8-3, 14-3-1 CHA) took a 1-0 first period lead, only to have the Chargers (10-17-3, 6-10-2 CHA) dominate the second and build a 2-1 advantage. The Beavers came back with a third period power play goal to tie it at 2-2, but that's the way it would end.
BSU dominated the third period and overtime with a combined 13-4 shot advantage. BSU also controlled the puck for long stretches over the final two sessions. But UAH goalie Cameron Talbot was up to the task and kept the Chargers in the game.
The Beavers got the only goal of a quickly played first period. Matt Read scored his 19th of the season, taking a pass at mid-ice and then beating a UAH defenseman at the blue line, creating a 2 on 1 opportunity for the Beavers. Read kept the puck and scored on a quick wrister from in close at 8:57.
The Beavers held a 12-7 shot advantage in the opening period.
It was a different story in the second period as the Chargers controlled play for long stretches and took a 2-1 lead. Neil Ruffini scored at 2:58 to tie the score. Then Chris Fairbanks took a great pass from Matti Jarvinen and scored from in close at 15:41 to give UAH its first lead of the series.
The Chargers held a 16-7 shot advantage in the period and BSU goalie Dan Bakala came up with a handful of big saves to keep the game close.
The third period belonged to the Beavers. After killing a minor penalty in the first five minutes, the Beavers kept the momentum. When the Chargers' Ruffini was whistled for a hooking penalty at the 9:41 mark, BSU quickly took advantage.
With the Beavers working the puck around the perimeter nicely on the power play, defender Brad Hunt found Ian Lowe with a pass just off the crease. Lowe ripped a one-timer past Talbot at 10:59 to tie the game.
But that was to be all the scoring for the remainder of regulation and the five minute overtime.
The Beavers looked to have manufactured yet another overtime win in the last seconds, as Read had the puck on his stick at point blank range with under 10 seconds remaining. Talbot stood tall, however, and denied the opportunity.
The Beavers ended with a 342-27 shot advantage for the game. Bakala ended with 25 saves, while Talbot notched 30.
The Beavers ended the regular season 5-0-1 in games against Alabama-Huntsville, 5-1-0 against Niagara and 4-2-0 against Robert Morris. The Beavers hold a 35-27-4 lead in the all-time series against UAH. Since Mar. 3, 2006, BSU is a dominant 23-2-3 versus UAH and is unbeaten by the Chargers in 18 of the last 19 meetings.
The seeding is now set for the CHA playoffs, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Dwyer Arena on the campus of Niagara University. UAH's one point for the tie Saturday assured the Chargers of the third seed.
That means Bemidji State will host Niagara, the fourth seed, in one semifinal on Friday, with Robert Morris facing UAH in the other. The winners will compete for the league playoff title, and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, Saturday with the loser's facing off in a third place game.
Having Niagara finishing last in the league standings and hosting the tournament brings up an interesting situation.
Usually the No. 1 seed, in this case Bemidji State, would play in the first semifinal as an advantage for winning the regular season crown. That gives the top seed extra rest time if it wins the semifinal.
However, that would mean BSU and Niagara would square off in the afternoon game with Robert Morris and UAH in the marquee spot. But with Niagara being the host it would be more advantageous from an attendance standpoint to have them play the evening game.
It's certain the situation will result in some spirited discussions among the league teams this week. It also puts CHA Commissioner Ed McLaughlin in an interesting spot, since he is also the Niagara athletic director.