Solid defensive and special teams play, combined with timely scoring led the Bemidji State men's hockey team to a 3-1 exhibition game win over the U.S. National U-18 team Friday at the John Glas Fieldhouse.
The Beavers scored three special teams goals - two power play and one shorthanded - and shut down the visitor's power play, holding the U.S. team to a 0-for-12 effort in recording the win.
The teams traded goals in the first period. Jeremy Morin scored first for the U.S. team, connecting less than two minutes into the period. The Beavers answered with a power play goal from Matt Read about one minute later. Read scored on a laser wrist shot short side from the near face off circle.
A pair of second period goals put the Beavers in control. Tyler Scofield scored first just 19 seconds into the period while the Beavers were shorthanded. Freshman Jamie MacQueen made it 3-1 at 11:23 as he tipped a shot from the point by Cody Bostock past U.S. goalie Brandon Maxwell.
"We had a rough first period," said BSU coach Tom Serratore. "We had 19 turnovers and they controlled the face offs. But I thought we played pretty well the final two periods. I was really pleased with our defensive play - contesting shots, blocking shots, clogging the passing lanes. We also santicipated and reacted well on the penalty kill."
The U.S. wasn't aggressive on the power play and the Beavers were able to take advantage, working the puck around well and applying a great deal of pressure. "We changed our forward lines around quite a bit for the game, but that's one area we kept intact - our power play unit," Serratore said. "We changed things around a bit six or seven games ago and we wanted to get the guys some reps.
"Overall, it was a game we wanted to win. I was happy with how the guys executed and paid attention to detail."
Focus on the CHA
While the Beavers were playing at The Glas, the attention of many Bemidji State fans was focused miles away.
Niagara traveled to Robert Morris with the College Hockey America title and top seed in the conference at stake. BSU's magic number was one - meaning any combination of a Niagara loss and Bemidji State win would assure the Beavers of no less than a tie for the CHA title.
A tie essentially means a win for BSU since the Beavers hold the tiebreaker advantage over Niagara - head to head competition.
In a tense and exciting game in Pittsburgh, Robert Morris and Niagara skated to a 3-3 overtime tie. That means the Beaver's magic number is now one-half. A Niagara tie or a BSU tie the rest of the way assures the Beavers no less than a tie for the regular season league crown and the top seed in the league tourney.
An easier way to put it: If BSU wins one game against Robert Morris next weekend, the title and top seed belongs to the Beavers outright. Likewise, if Niagara loses once in its last three games the title belongs to BSU.
On the ice, the Beavers approached the exhibition game as an opportunity to give some younger players extensive playing time, while also resting some veterans. Senior captain Travis Winter did not dress for the game, nor did back up goaltender Orlando Alamano. Senior forward Scofield dressed but saw limited action.
One the ice, freshman Brent Tamane, who has seen limited action this season, took Scofield's spot on the top line along with Matt Read and Matt Francis. Defenseman Dan MacIntyre moved up and played forward on the second line with MacQueen and freshman Darcy Findlay.
Tyler Lehrke moved to take the place of injured Ryan Cramer on the third line with Shea Walters and Ben Kinne. Freshman Dan Bakala played the entire game in net.
The US team was loaded with talent. A total of 17 players on the roster have signed to play with major college programs such as North Dakota, Denver, Notre Dame, Michigan and New Hampshire.
Three of the players - Kyle Palmieri, Jeremy Morin and Drew Shore are being projected as first round NHL draft picks in the next entry draft.
Defender Cam Fowler is too young to be eligible for this year's entry draft, but is being projected as a top five pick when he does become eligible. Fowler, of Farmington Hills, Mich., has good size at 6-2, 193, along tremendous skating skills and puck handling ability. Scouts at the game said he was a cinch NHLer, probably within the next two years.
The Beavers ended with a 29-25 shot advantage. Bakala looked strong in net for the Beavers, making some big saves when needed.
The two teams conclude the series tonight in a 7:05 p.m. start from The Glas.